Little known until a few months ago, the thirty-eight-year-old Samuel Harris Altman, better known as Sam Altman, has hit the headlines since last November.
Not only because ChatGPT was launched on November 30, 2022, the conversational chatbot destined to change our lives. But also why the CEO of OpenAI entered the debate on artificial intelligence with a certain vehemence. We have devoted several articles to his changing positions on the need to regulate generative AI. Up to the sensational scoop of Time, according to which Altman put pressure on the European Union, managing to obtain a softening of the initial draft of the EU AI Act. In short, in the final text, generative artificial intelligence is no longer among the technologies at high risk. And it will therefore be subject to less stringent regulations.
It is evidently a period of great turmoil for Sam Altman, who recently announced the birth of the Worldcoin project. What is it about?
The Worldcoin project has been launched. It already has its own official website, complete with a presentation on the home page by Sam Altman and Alex Blania.
In the double signed note published on Monday 24 July we read: “Worldcoin consists of a privacy-preserving digital identity (World ID) and, where laws permit, a digital currency (WLD) granted simply for being human. We hope that where the rules are less clear, such as in the US, steps are taken so that more people can benefit from both aspects.
Now you can download World App, the first wallet compatible with the protocol, and book your share. After visiting an Orb, a biometric verification device, you will receive a World ID. This allows you to prove that you are a real and unique person online while remaining completely private.”
The origins of the project
We will return to this nomenclature, which is not necessarily clear to all readers.
However, we would like to remember that for some time there has been talk of Altman’s interest in cryptocurrencies (we even wrote about it in October 2021). The Worldcoin project was born in 2019, raised $250 million donated by investors and involved 2 million people in the beta version.
Not Worldcoin is operational in 20 countries, and its app (World App) can be downloaded from both the App Store and the Play Store.
How does it work
To better understand the Worldcoin project, let’s go back to the note that appeared on the official website.
Access to Worldcoin therefore passes through an Orb, i.e. an iris verification and scanning device, which will allow the system to certify that the applicant is a human being.
The identity will be certified via World ID, which in turn relies on the Okta verification system.
Eye scanning aims to solve one of the problems associated with the very rapid development of artificial intelligence: the difficulty of distinguishing what is human pertinence from what arises from an algorithm.
Eye scanning to access Worldcoin is already present in 35 cities in the 20 countries where the project was launched.
Cryptocurrency and more
The Worldcoin project therefore includes a cryptocurrency, which can only be used after identity verification. But also an application with which users can make payments, purchases and money transfers.
Several exchanges already allow the cryptocurrency token to be exchanged which, like the project, will be called Worldcoin.
Speaking about the Worldcoin project, Sam Altman said: “Like any truly ambitious project, it could succeed or it could fail, but to try things like that is to chase progress. Either way, we especially love our detractors, they give us energy. So go ahead!”
And Alex Blania added that the project aims to contribute to a “privacy-centric, decentralized and maximally inclusive” future.
Almost all of the criticisms directed at the Worldcoin project inevitably concern the activity of mass biometric recognition.
Despite reassurances from Altman and Blania, concerns centered on user privacy. That is, how the biometric data of anyone who downloads the app on their device and accesses the services provided by Worldcoin is collected, stored and managed.