It was only last week we were writing that venture capitalists were ditching crypto in favour of AI. Now one of the biggest names in AI – OpenAI founder Sam Altman – has launched Worldcoin, a cryptocurrency that could make an impact in the AI industry too.
Before you plough any money into Worldcoin, let’s find out what it’s all about and how AI comes into it.
What is Worldcoin and how does it work?
Worldcoin is an Ethereum-based cryptocurrency, similar to Bitcoin and many others.
However, the key difference with Worldcoin is the controversial “proof of personship” model that runs alongside it. Potential Worldcoin buyers are encouraged to create a World ID, by having their iris scanned by a special “Orb” at locations around the world. I promise we’re not making this up.
An iris scan is similar to a fingerprint, in that it’s a unique pattern that can be used to identify an individual. Not only will people who create a World ID be given free Worldcoin tokens, but that ID might (and we stress the word might) be used in future to identify yourself on various online services. It could even be used as proof that you’re a human, not an AI bot.
Theoretically, a social network could demand to see your World ID when you sign up for an account in a bid to thwart AI-generated accounts, for example.
How do I get a World ID?
This is the tricky bit, especially if you live in the US or many other countries where Worldcoin currently isn’t being made available for regulatory reasons (we’ll come back to this).
To get a World ID, you first need to download the World App. Once installed, click on the section to “Verify with an Orb” and use the built-in search to find an Orb location near you.
In the UK, there appears to be only one Orb location in Shoreditch, London. You have to schedule an appointment to have your iris scanned, but when I went to book an appointment this morning it said there were “no times in August” and it wasn’t possible to book in September or beyond.
The FAQ on the Worldcoin website says that “once launched”, you will be able to buy Worldcoin without a World ID, but when I tried to buy some from the World App I was met with a message saying “Worldcoin purchases will be available soon”.
Is Worldcoin legit?
There’s no doubt that Sam Altman is a serious player in the world of AI. His company, OpenAI, is the owner of ChatGPT and DALLE 2, two of the biggest AI technologies to have emerged in recent years.
However, there are a lot of questions being asked about Worldcoin. As we mentioned, the company has avoided making Worldcoin available in the US as the country’s regulators continue to grapple with defining which cryptocurrencies should be classified as securities and which shouldn’t. This has left the entire crypto market in a state of uncertainty.
What’s more, an in-depth investigation by the MIT Technology Review “revealed wide gaps between Worldcoin’s public messaging, which focused on protecting privacy, and what users experienced” in developing nations where Worldcoin and World ID have been aggressively rolled out.
“We found that the company’s representatives used deceptive marketing practices, collected more personal data than it acknowledged, and failed to obtain meaningful informed consent,” the MIT Technology Review claims.
Data watchdogs in Europe are also reported to be investigating the World ID scheme. The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office told reporters that it was making inquiries about World ID, having warned that “organisations must conduct a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) before starting any processing that is likely to result in high risk, such as processing special category biometric data”.
In short, it appears that Worldcoin has done little yet to alleviate the concerns many people have over investing in cryptocurrencies.
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