Members of the public are being asked to have their eyeballs scanned by a silver orb as part of a cryptocurrency project that aims to use biometric verification to distinguish humans from AI systems.
People who sign up for the Worldcoin program through an app this week will receive a ‘genesis grant’ of 25 tokens, equivalent to around £40, after having their iris scanned by one of the bowling ball-sized devices.
Once users scan their eyes, they’ll receive a World ID, which the scheme says will prove they’re a “real, unique person” while maintaining their privacy, and a crypto wallet on their smartphone.
The project was started by Sam Altman of machine learning research firm OpenAI, and on Tuesday the London orb of Techspace Worship Street near Old Street tube station was busy with potential users.
Worldcoin promises that those who scan their irises will have their privacy protected. However, the Information Commissioner’s Office, the data regulator, said it was reviewing the system, telling Reuters: “We note the launch of Worldcoin in the UK and will make further inquiries.”
According to the company, Worldcoin will be a way to distinguish between real “verified humans” and AI systems. It seeks to establish universal access to the global economy “regardless of country or origin”, and is described on its website as an opportunity to establish “a place for all of us to benefit in the age of AI”.
The Worldcoin protocol works by giving biometrically verified users a digital identity in the form of a Worldcoin token, which claims to be the first cryptographic token to be distributed globally and freely to people just for being a real, unique person. Users will also have access to the global app enabling payment, purchases and transfers globally using digital assets and traditional currencies.
The project, which has been running for more than three years and co-founded by Altman and a theoretical physics student, Alex Bania, officially launched on Monday with 2 million users from 33 countries registering and undergoing scans in its trial phases, mostly from Europe, India and southern Africa.
Altman and Bania said, “Worldcoin is an attempt to align globally, the journey will be difficult and the outcome is uncertain. But finding new ways to widely share the coming technological prosperity is a critical challenge of our time.
Altman, whose company is responsible for creating the artificial intelligence chatbot ChatGPT and the Dall-E 2 image generator, has previously called AI regulation “essential” and backed regulated tutors for technology that would seek to minimize harm while enabling the benefits of artificial intelligence.