You can get most if not all cryptocurrencies in exchange for cash, but Sam Altman’s Worldcoin isn’t like any other coin we now know about. As part of his startup growth plan, he wants to give Worldcoins to anyone willing to have their iris scans. Yes, you read it right. Altman wants to exchange cryptocurrency for eyeballs.
We’ll answer the questions you may be asking right now like:
- Who is Sam Altman?
- What is Worldcoin?
- Would giving your iris scan away possibly lead to trouble?
Who Is Sam Altman?
Altman is the former head of Y Combinator, an American technology startup accelerator launched in March 2005. To date, it has been used to launch more than 3,000 companies, including Airbnb, Dropbox, and Reddit. He is now the CEO of OpenAI.
Altman is one of the three founders of Worldcoin, which is backed by Coinbase Global’s venture capital arm Andreessen Horowitz, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, and venture capital firm Day One Ventures. Worldcoin has raised a total of US$25 million from investors. While Altman was Worldcoin’s first investor, he does not play a role in the company’s day-to-day operations and mainly serves as an adviser if needed.
What’s the Rationale Behind Giving Away Worldcoins?
In an interview, Altman revealed that he conceived Worldcoin in late 2019. His intention? He wanted to use cryptocurrency to spread money around equitably based on the theory known as “universal basic income.” He and his co-founders, Alexander Blania and Max Novendstern, believe that the world would be a better place if everyone had access to financial systems. And Worldcoin could do that.
The company aims to redistribute wealth and give as many people as possible a chance to benefit from the government without relying on a state-managed redistribution system.
What Is Worldcoin?
Worldcoin is a digital currency, much like Bitcoin and Ethereum. Unlike more established cryptocurrencies, however, anyone on the planet can own Worldcoins so long as they scan their irises on a device dubbed the “Orb” in exchange. Their iris scans will serve as their unique personal identifier on the system.
What Is the Orb? And How Will Worldcoin Use It?
The Orb is a silver, spherical gadget that is about as big as a basketball. It is portable in that you can carry it and use it to scan people’s irises to identify them. Here’s how it looks:
While Worldcoin has begun testing the Orb in various cities at a small scale, the coin itself isn’t ready for distribution yet. As such, volunteers were given other cryptocurrencies, primarily Bitcoins, to have their eyes scanned and provide feedback.
If you’re wondering why only a few Orbs have been produced so far, the main reason could be high costs. Each prototype Orb costs around US$5,000.
Why Do People Need to Have Their Irises Scanned?
Blania said iris scanning is an essential part of their plan because it can prevent people from trying to register multiple times to defraud the system. Technically, an iris scan is hard to replicate.
Is Giving Your Iris Scan to Worldcoin Safe?
We’ve all watched movies where either the protagonists or antagonists fake people’s iris scans to get into areas reserved for authorized personnel only. The six Mission Impossible films would probably spring to your mind at this point. So thinking about the privacy and security implications of handing over what is essentially a biometric identifier to Worldcoin isn’t so far off.
In Worldcoin’s defense, Blania emphasized they were aware of the implications. But the company is making the process as transparent as possible. They will tell all users and even let them see how their data is used. Besides, he added, they don’t plan to keep the iris scans for long. The scans will instead be turned into unique numerical codes that will serve as user IDs.
Only time will tell if Worldcoin’s approach to widening its reach will work. The only remaining question is: Would you consider exchanging your eyeballs for digital coins?