The CEO of the groundbreaking artificial intelligence- (AI) powered chatbot ChatGPT, Sam Altman, is on the verge of embarking on an exciting venture known as Worldcoin. This upcoming endeavour established by Altman and Alex Bania back in 2019, introduces an extraordinary cryptocurrency that utilises iris-scanning technology.
From its inception, the founders envisaged a revolutionary global distribution system capable of delivering Universal Basic Income to individuals worldwide. It is a concept that entails providing regular monetary support to fulfil fundamental necessities.
On its website, it states that,
“Worldcoin is building the world’s largest identity and financial network as a public utility, giving ownership to everyone. We aim to create universal access to the global economy regardless of country or background, accelerating the transition to an economic future that welcomes and benefits every person on the planet.”
It is reported that Sam has managed to secure an impressive $100 million in funding from prominent venture-capital investors. What is more, is that he has wasted no time in unveiling the World App crypto wallet, now available for download on mobile devices.
The app enables payment, purchases, and transfers using Worldcoin and other digital assets. The plan is to launch in the first half of this year and distribute 10 billion tokens in total, with 80% going to users.
The Worldcoin Foundation said in an announcement, “With more than 1.6 million sign ups in beta and 500,000+ monthly active World App users, the deployments on the Optimism main net will expand access and help Worldcoin reach a values-aligned ecosystem of developers and users.”
So what is it, really?
Worldcoin, an ERC-20 token built on the Ethereum (ETH) blockchain, brings familiarity to investors who are well-versed in the world of crypto. In practical terms, it operates and trades similarly to established crypto like Shiba Inu (SHIB) and Uniswap, both of which are ERC-20 tokens boasting substantial market capitalisation. What sets Worldcoin apart is its bold ambition to serve as both a crypto and a global identification system.
Imagine an open-source protocol, purposefully crafted to grant universal access to the global economy. Its very essence lies in decentralisation, empowering the community of users to become the true custodians of oversight and decision-making.
Here is where the creepy, controversial or even creative part comes in. To partake in the world of Worldcoin, claiming your crypto tokens and obtaining a Worldcoin ID involves an unexpected requirement: a scan of your own eyeballs, courtesy of Sam Altman. Yes, you read that correctly. Does that not raise a few eyebrows?
Worldcoin introduces a groundbreaking innovation called the Orb, an exclusive iris-scanning tool designed by the team. Once your eyes have met the Orb’s gaze, you gain access to the realm of Worldcoin.
Image source of the Orb: Worldcoin
In a captivating display of technological prowess, the Orb transforms the eye scan into a unique string of numbers known as hash. This intricate process ensures that even in the event of a compromised hash, the original scanned image remains irreproducible. Subsequently, the Orb transmits both the iris hash and a hash of the user’s public key to the company’s database and integrated into the blockchain.
Sam gave his assurance that this seemingly peculiar process is simply a means to verify our human existence, with no intention of invading our privacy. It does not even require your name! Unsettling or remarkable, you decide. Already, an ETH developer has called Worldcoin “unrealistic and scary.”
People testing out the iris-scanning technology of the Orb
Within the realm of Worldcoin lies a collection of tools, working in unison to propel the digitization of currency. What are these tools then?
World ID: a groundbreaking solution designed to address critical challenges rooted in identity. Embracing the principles of privacy preservation, World ID aims to tackle multifaceted issues, including the verification of an individual’s distinct personhood.
Worldcoin Token: an unprecedented digital asset that transcends geographical boundaries and is freely bestowed upon each unique individual. It serves a dual purpose ─ facilitating practical utility and laying the foundation for future governance.
World App: a self-custodial marvel that empowers users to engage in seamless global transactions. With the Worldcoin token at its core, this transformative application enables payments, purchases, and transfers on a global scale, seamlessly integrating digital assets, stablecoins, and even traditional currencies.
Alas, nothing is perfect.
Amidst its loft aspirations, Worldcoin finds itself confronting an array of challenges and critical scrutiny. One primary concerns revolves around the privacy and security of individuals’ biometric data, raising questions about its potential usage beyond the intended scope.
Additionally, the feasibility and scalability of the project come under the intense scrutiny, particularly in reaching the vast population of unbanked and underbanked individuals worldwide. Furthermore, experts cast doubt on the intrinsic value and practicality of its token, questioning its ability to compete with established crypto or even traditional fiat currencies.
At the heart of this matter lies the Orb. This ambitious biometric verification process serves as a means to authenticate individuals as “human” within an ever-expanding digital landscape driven by AI.
Regrettably, this groundbreaking identification method has unwittingly paved the way for exploitation. BlockBeats, a notable crypto publication based in China, initially reported on a disconcerting trend: individuals within China, where Worldcoin is not currently operational, were obtaining iris scans from residents of countries such as Cambodia and Kenya at alarmingly low prices, as meager as $30 per scan. Doing so gives them entry into the coveted Worldcoin beta network.
To Worldcoin’s credit, they took swift action and have engaged in a dialogue with Gizmodo to address the prevailing concerns head on. They have clarified that the primary issue stems from the sale of verified World IDs in illicit third-part apps, rather than the compromise of actual iris scans.
These World IDs play a crucial role in affirming an individual’s distinctiveness within the Worldcoin ecosystem. While Worldcoin acknowledges the existence of a limited number of fraudulent IDs, their vigilant efforts have identified only a small fraction of such instances, numbering in the mere hundreds.
Previously, Worldcoin was embroiled in another security challenge, highlighting a recurring pattern in its journey. A recent TechCrunch investigation brought to light a disconcerting development: hackers successfully implanted malware onto select Orb operators’ devices, leading to compromised log-in credentials and potential jeopardy to user information.
While Worldcoin denies any breach of sensitive biometric data, it is important to address a significant security oversight that surfaces in this incident. The absence of two-factor authentication for Orb operator logins leaves room for scrutiny and raises concerns regarding the overall robustness of Worldcoin’s security measures.
Well, in a proactive move to curb potential abuse, they are already implementing strategic measures to enhance the sign-up process. This includes the adoption of dynamic QR codes in place of static codes, bolstering security and fortifying user safeguards.
Furthermore, recognising the importance of user welfare, Worldcoin has announced plans to develop a new recovery process for misplaced World IDs, emphsising their commitment to prioritsing user interests.
On 24 May 2023, Worldcoin tweeted about the composability on World App and linked it to an article on its blog.
In all honesty, despite its lofty aspirations and remarkable development, it still poses substantial challenges to the privacy and security realms within the rapidly expanding crypto industry. How might this disconcerting development impact the delicate balance between convenience and safeguarding user data? And what other proactive measures should be undertaken to address these pressing concerns and foster a more secure and privacy-conscious crypto ecosystem?
As the spotlight shines on these pressing issues, we are left to ponder whether Worldcoin possess the mettle to fulfil its grand vision while effectively navigating the potential obstacles lying ahead. Will it rise to the occasion, proving its worth amidst scepticism, or succumb to the challenges that lie in its path?