July 24 (Reuters) – Worldcoin, a cryptocurrency project founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, launched on Monday.
The project’s core offering is World ID, which the company describes as a “digital passport”[ads1]; to prove the holder is a real human, not an AI bot. To get a World ID, a customer signs up to have a personal iris scan using Worldcoin’s “ball,” a silver ball about the size of a bowling ball. When the bullet’s iris scan confirms that the person is a real human, it creates a world ID.
The company behind Worldcoin is San Francisco and Berlin-based Tools for Humanity.
The project has 2 million users from the beta period, and with Monday’s launch, Worldcoin scales up “orbing” operations to 35 cities in 20 countries. As an enticement, those who sign up in certain countries will receive Worldcoin’s cryptocurrency token WLD.
WLD’s share rose in early trading on Monday. On the world’s largest exchange, Binance, it peaked at $5.29 and by 1000 GMT was at $2.49 from an initial price of $0.15, having seen $25.1 million in trading volume, according to Binance’s website.
Blockchains can store the world IDs in a way that preserves privacy and cannot be controlled or blocked by any single entity, co-founder Alex Blania told Reuters.
The project says world IDs will be necessary in the age of generative AI chatbots like ChatGPT, which produce remarkably human-like language. World IDs can be used to tell the difference between real people and AI robots online.
Altman told Reuters that Worldcoin could also help address how the economy will be reshaped by generative AI.
“People will be supercharged by AI, which will have huge economic implications,” he said.
An example Altman likes is universal basic income, or UBI, a social benefits program usually run by governments where every individual is entitled to payments. Because AI “will do more and more of the work that people now do,” Altman believes UBI could help combat income inequality. Since only real people can have world IDs, it can be used to reduce fraud when distributing UBI.
Altman said he thought a world with UBI would be “very far in the future” and he didn’t have a clear idea of what entity could hand out money, but that Worldcoin lays the groundwork for that to become a reality.
“We think we need to start experimenting with things so we can figure out what to do,” he said.
Reporting by Anna Tong in San Francisco; additional reporting by Juby Babu and Elizabeth Howcroft; edited by Kenneth Li, Shri Navaratnam and Philippa Fletcher
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