OpenAI’s Sam Altman launches Worldcoin crypto project


July 24 (Reuters) – Worldcoin, a cryptocurrency project founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, launched on Monday.

The project’s core offering is its World ID, which the company describes as a “digital passport” to prove that its holder is a real human, not an AI bot. To get a World ID, a customer signs up to do an in-person iris scan using Worldcoin’s ‘orb’, a silver ball approximately the size of a bowling ball. Once the orb’s iris scan verifies 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 its beta period, and with Monday’s launch, Worldcoin is scaling 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 price rose in early trading on Monday. On the world’s largest exchange, Binance, it hit a peak of $5.29 and at 1000 GMT was at $2.49 from a starting price of $0.15, having seen $25.1 million of trading volume, according to Binance’s website.

Blockchains can store the World IDs in a way that preserves privacy and can’t be controlled or shut down 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 humanlike language. World IDs could be used to tell the difference between real people and AI bots online.

Altman told Reuters Worldcoin also can help address how the economy will be reshaped by generative AI.

“People will be supercharged by AI, which will have massive economic implications,” he said.

One 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 can help to combat income inequality. Since only real people can have World IDs, it could be used to reduce fraud when deploying UBI.

Altman said he thought a world with UBI would be “very far in the future” and he did not have a clear idea of what entity could dole out money, but that Worldcoin lays groundwork for it to become a reality.

“We think that 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; editing by Kenneth Li, Shri Navaratnam and Philippa Fletcher

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Anna Tong is a correspondent for Reuters based in San Francisco, where she reports on the technology industry. She joined Reuters in 2023 after working at the San Francisco Standard as a data editor. Tong previously worked at technology startups as a product manager and at Google where she worked in user insights and helped run a call center. Tong graduated from Harvard University.

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