01 July 2021

Bloomberg: “Sam Altman’s Worldcoin will give Free Crypto for Eyeball Scans”

With Worldcoin, the startup promises a new global digital currency that will launch by giving a share to every single person on earth, according to an online job description. The company aims to help economies transition to cryptocurrencies through a novel approach: a dedicated hardware device ensuring both humanness and uniqueness of everybody signing up, while maintaining their privacy and the overall transparency of a permissionless blockchain.

The device is a silver-colored spherical gizmo the size of a basketball that can be carried around and used to scan people’s irises in order to ascertain their unique identities, Blania said. Worldcoin has already started testing the orb on a small scale in various cities, he said. The Worldcoin currency itself is not yet ready for distribution, so the company is currently offering volunteers other types of digital coins, mostly Bitcoin, in exchange for scanning their eyes and giving feedback on the process.

The company has fewer than 20 prototypes in circulation around the world, Blania said. A prototype orb costs about $5,000 to make, but the price will decline steeply as the company refines the process, he said. Worldcoin will eventually be headquartered in San Francisco, though its employees are currently scattered because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ellen Huet & Gillian Tan

To be filed under ‘ridiculous ideas from Silicon Valley billionaires’. I had to double-check if I read the size comparison correctly, because carrying around a basketball-sized sphere sounds absurd – and I still think (hope, even!) this is a typing mistake.

For context, the International Poverty Line is $1.90 per day, so for the cost of this iris-scanning gadget, the startup could instead feed one of the 700+ million people in absolute poverty for 2500 days (nearly 7 years)!

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