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More Than Meets the Eye: Unravelling the Brains Behind Worldcoin’s Orb


At the forefront of innovation, Worldcoin introduces a groundbreaking concept known as "World ID," a digital passport designed to distinguish humans from artificial intelligence (AI) bots. The launch saw over two million sign ups. Spearheaded by San Francisco-based Tools for Humanity, this pioneering project brings forth the Worldcoin token (WLD), which claims the distinction of being the first digital currency distributed freely to individuals solely for being unique humans.

Complementing this initiative is the World App, a revolutionary creation by Tools for Humanity, serving as the inaugural World ID-compatible app. Boasting global capabilities, World App facilitates seamless payments, purchases, and transfers using both digital assets and fiat-backed stablecoins.

The Visionary Behind the Vision
At its core, Worldcoin harbours an audacious and forward-thinking premise — one that envisions a future where AI transcends human intelligence, ushering in a new era of advanced general intelligence (AGI). With AGI's emergence, the world can anticipate unprecedented leaps in productivity, resulting in the creation of vast wealth. However, the crux of Worldcoin's vision lies in ensuring this newfound prosperity reaches all of humanity, rather than being concentrated in the hands of the privileged few. To achieve this, Worldcoin advocates for a universal basic income (UBI), a transformative concept that seeks to empower billions by distributing wealth equitably to each and every individual.

A pivotal aspect of this UBI vision is the integration of cryptocurrency — a novel approach that underpins Worldcoin's ethos. In this grand design, the Worldcoin (WLD) cryptocurrency takes centre stage, acting as the vehicle to deliver the benefits of UBI to people worldwide.

For Sam Altman, this idea resonates profoundly, transcending discussions of AI, and he shares his belief that a society prosperous enough to eradicate poverty bears a moral responsibility to explore and implement mechanisms that ensure such a reality. While he refrains from singling out a specific entity to oversee UBI distribution, he sees Worldcoin as a critical first step in realising this ambitious dream — full-scale implementation of UBI.

“In a world of AI, [universal basic income] is even more important, for the obvious reasons. But, A, I do think we’re going to need some sort of cushion through the transition, and, B, part of the whole reason of being excited about AI is it’s a more materially abundant world.”

And the driving force behind Worldcoin's vision is a noble aspiration — to extend verifiable digital identity to the approximately 4.4 billion people worldwide who lack one. To achieve this transformative goal, the project harnesses privacy-preserving, decentralised, and open-source solutions, underpinning its mission with an unwavering commitment to safeguarding individual privacy and security.

These verifiable digital identities hold the key to minimising fraud in UBI distribution, as only genuine individuals can possess them. By leveraging the inherent security of World IDs, he seeks to fortify the foundations of UBI, paving the way for a more equitable and efficient distribution system.

Everywhere But the United States
Worldcoin's terms of service draw a clear line in the sand with their resolute American blockade, “WLD tokens are not intended to be available for use, purchase, or access by US persons, including US citizens, residents, or persons in the United States, or companies incorporated, located, or resident in the United States, or who have a registered agent in the United States.”

Despite this restriction, intriguingly, Worldcoin included some of America's iconic cities — Miami, San Francisco, and New York City — in its ambitious "Orb tour." The tour aims to educate and engage the public by addressing questions about the protocol and facilitating sign-ups for World IDs using the innovative Orb technology.

Curiously, even individuals who complete an Orb scan in the US are informed that they would not be able to partake in the token drop — a revelation shared by a Worldcoin representative at a New York City pop-up location.

“Worldcoin consists of a privacy-preserving digital identity (World ID) and, where laws allow, a digital currency (WLD) received simply for being human. We hope that, where the rules are less clear, such as in the US, steps will be taken so more people can benefit from both,” Sam and Alex wrote in an open letter, “If successful, we believe Worldcoin could drastically increase economic opportunity, scale a reliable solution for distinguishing humans from AI online while preserving privacy, enable global democratic processes, and eventually show a potential path to AI-funded [universal basic income].”

Walking Down Memory Lane
The mastermind behind the design of the Orb, Thomas Meyerhoffer began his illustrious career as Jony Ive's first recruit at Apple, which is why the orb might pass off as an Apple product. He once said, “It must be simple enough to speak to all of us. Everyone, all around the world.”

The company’s early days — the inception of a vision began as "the bitcoin project." In its nascent form, the grand aspiration was to freely distribute bitcoin to individuals upon proving their humanity. The early Orbs even had the ability to talk.

Each of the earlier Orbs could securely hold 15 physical coins, serving as tangible representations of actual bitcoin keys. The belief was that by having something physical in hand, people would take the cryptocurrency more seriously — an idea that was later abandoned for evident reasons. Co-founder of Worldcoin Alex Bania stated that, "We just tried so many things.”

Fuelled by an unyielding spirit of innovation, the team churned out a new version of the Orb every week, using 3D printers to facilitate rapid iterations — a testament to their tireless pursuit of perfection and ingenuity.

Tiago Sada, head of product and engineering, expressed that, “People think that we need a lot of data to train the algorithms. Actually, what a lot of these models allow us to do [is] generate synthetic data. That allows us to use significantly less data. That’s why we’re able, by default, to delete everyone’s [biometric and iris] data.”

Concerns Addressed
Since the moment Sam unveiled The Orb on Twitter back in October 2021, critics and skeptics alike wasted no time in voicing their concerns and scepticism. And with the launch of the Worldcoin yesterday, the heat has been turned on even further, on top of criticisms and controversies from the past.

The Worldcoin team repeatedly emphasised that the Orb is designed not to collect biometric data from users' eyeballs, except in cases where explicit permission is granted. Adhering to transparency, they acknowledge that some data is captured, but only with the user's consent. The default setting ensures that data capture does not occur, allowing users to retain control over their information. However, should users choose to permit data storage, Worldcoin assures that this information serves a specific purpose — enhancing their algorithm for the betterment of the platform.

The company’s privacy statement pointed out that, “Privacy is a fundamental human right. Every part of the Worldcoin system has been carefully designed to defend it, without compromise. We don’t want to know who you are, just that you are unique.” Tiago further added that the Orb handles all of its calculations and verifications locally to ensure that you are a unique human, and then it generates a unique “iris code.”

A significant voice entered the conversation amidst the launch of Worldcoin yesterday — Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin. In a detailed blog post, he scrutinised the project's claims of privacy, raising compelling questions about its approach. While voicing concerns, he also acknowledged the merits of Worldcoin, awarding it a fair assessment.

Crypto exchanges like Binance, OKX, Huobi, Bitget, and others, have listed WLD, showing their support.

A Digital Passport
Upon obtaining their WorldID, users step into a realm of possibilities — a future where this digital passport could serve as a transformative "skeleton key" for accessing a plethora of applications and websites. Worldcoin confidently assures that privacy preservation lies at the core of the WorldID system, inspiring confidence in its security. With this unique identifier in hand, users may soon unlock the potential to seamlessly navigate various platforms, including familiar names like Twitter (or X after its recent rebranding) or ChatGPT. Already, the team is testing the waters, exploring the integration of this functionality.

Configuration of the Current System
The current configuration of the system presents a fascinating prospect: once enrolled in the Orb, users have the opportunity to claim one worldcoin each week — a glimpse of the early kernel of UBI. The notion of providing a token that could appear in the wallets (or, metaphorically, the "eyeballs") of every individual on the planet raises a captivating question: Who bears the responsibility of funding this global distribution?

According to Sam, “The hope is that as people want to buy this token, because they believe this is the future, there will be inflows into this economy. New token-buyers is how it gets paid for, effectively.” The long-term vision is the notion that the advancements in AGI will bear bountiful financial rewards that can be generously bestowed upon humanity. He added, “Eventually, you can imagine all sorts of things in the post-AGI world but we have no specific plans for that. That’s not what this is about, at this phase.”

Striking a Balance Between Data Utilisation for Algorithmic Improvement and Respecting User Autonomy
As Worldcoin sets out on this remarkable endeavour, numerous questions arise: How will the World ID revolutionise the digital landscape? Can a freely distributed digital currency truly pave the way for financial inclusion on a global scale? What safeguards are in place to protect individuals who provide explicit consent? How does Worldcoin strike a delicate balance between data utilisation for algorithmic improvement and respecting user autonomy?

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