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  • Adrien Book

The Weirdest Project happening in the Tech World right now

Tools for Humanity is a company co-founded by Sam Altman, the now-infamous CEO of OpenAI (of ChatGPT fame). The premise for the company’s flagship project, WorldCoin, is simple:

  • Exponential improvements in Artificial Intelligence technology will one day lead to the creation of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI).

  • When this happens, the global economy will be disrupted beyond recognition by job destruction, wealth concentration, etc.

  • A post-AGI world will need something resembling a Universal Basic Income (UBI): money with no strings attached to par inequalities.

  • AI improvements will make proving that someone online is a human very difficult.

  • But, for UBI projects to work, you will need to verify that the people receiving it are real, and are not cheating the system.

So far, so good, right? It’s however all downhill from here. WorldCoin is the weirdest project happening in the tech world right now.

How does WorldCoin “work”?

To solve the issues mentioned above, WorldCoin has a two-step plan.

First, the company wants to scan your eyes.

No, the company using orbs to scan your eyeballs does not have your best interest at heart

This is being done using metallic spheres the size of bowling balls, called Orbs. You Stare Into the Orb, and the Orb Stares Back at you. The device uses a thermal scanner to check people’s body temperature, a 3D camera to map out their face, and high-resolution cameras to capture video and images of their body, face, eyes, and irises.

The irises are supposedly the important part. Since all irises are different, it’s possible to create a unique code based on this specific biometric information. This unique crypto-graphic identifier is a called a “World ID” or “IrisHash.” This code would supposedly replace IDs in an AI-dominated future. If that feels like random techno-babble, trust your instincts.

If this was it, this project would be creepy… but not nefarious. But no. Altman and his goons aren’t thinking about the future. They’re trying to peddle a crypto-currency.

Once your irises have been scanned, you download an app (there’s always an app). The World App is yet another crypto wallet, which you can log onto by linking it to your IrisHash and proving you’re a human. At this point, you automatically receive some WorldCoins, which are supposed to be the basis for a new post-AGI, UBI-based economic order. This is your reward for selling out your biometrics

Like most cryptos, WorldCoins are not backed by any cash flows, and are not tied to a fiat currency. Unlike other tokens, it doesn’t give voting powers, either. It is essentially worthless.

Congrats, you sold your eyes for something worth less than a Chuck e Cheese token (~17 cents). Like everything in crypto, this is a silly solution looking for a problem.

Why is WorldCoin a Bad Idea?

More than 2 million people have supposedly already had their eyes scanned by one of the 300+ Orbs in the world today, with the ominous spheres popping up in most major cities of the world. It must be noted however, that most of that data was gathered in the developing world, while violating privacy laws, in what can only be referred to as crypto-colonialism. As the MIT Technology Review writes:

It’s just cheaper and easier to run this kind of data collection operation in places where people have little money and few legal protections.

Ay, there’s the rub! If some form of Universal Basic Income was created in the future, it would exist to help the global poor. And so far, the global poor used as guinea pigs don’t feel helped. At all.

The project’s leadership also fails to address the risks of the Orbs being hacked, or how social engineering (which is how most crypto-scams come to be) could be used to derail their plans for a fair and transparent UBI system. And don’t expect transparency on this any time soon. As the MIT Technology Review reports:

WorldCoin has promised to open source its code, including repeating to MIT Technology Review on multiple occasions that this would occur “within the next few weeks” — since we first contacted the company in February.

Oh the guy building a super-intelligent AI is compiling a permanent electronic identification database of all humans and refusing to explain how he’s using that data. That’s not an alarming science-fiction premise at all.

Obviously, regulators will have something to say about the project if it gains traction, because we already have systems to distribute money to people in need. They are based on national identity, and work fairly well. Sure, there is some fraud… but that fraud is usually committed by rich people like Sam Altman and his backers. UBI isn’t happening because we lack the technology, it’s happening because we lack the political will to do it. But that’s a story for another day.

Why does WorldCoin exist, really?

WorldCoin is backed up by the usual crypto suspects : Andreessen Horowitz, Khosla Ventures, and (maybe?) Three Arrows Capital are all investors. Coincidentally, these are all venture capitalists with massive crypto-related losses.

These people didn’t invest because they care about the world’s poor or privacy. To them, this is a last-ditch effort to make fetch happen and recoup some of their losses. It didn’t work in the West so they’re now setting their sights on the global south.

Want UBI? Scared of AI? They will spin it however they can to get you onboard. They hope that using enough buzzwords like AI, biometric data verification, censorship resistant transfer, Sybil attacks… will make users forget about WorldCoin’s core concept. Which, again, is getting your eyeball scanned for free.

If the team in charge of WorldCoin was serious about UBI, they would be working on the political will to give money to people all over the world. But that’s difficult. And that would make WorldCoin not a tech company. It would make it a non-profit. And tech bros love profits. The fact that investors hold 10%+ of the WorldCoin supply makes that abundantly clear.


I have no doubt that Sam Altman has good intentions. But that doesn’t really matter, does it? There is a reason the phrase “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” exists. Actions speak louder than words, and right now, his actions point to him building a crypto-Panopticon.

The project launched “officially” in late July. The quicker it goes back to obscurity, the better.

Good luck out there.


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