I woke up the other day and went to make coffee as part of my normal routine, (I might have an addiction). I realized I had run out of coffee, so I headed to my local supermarket. As I was walking in, I saw a group of people gathered around a giant orb thing, Wordcoin they call it.
A salesperson noticed my interest and approached me “Have you heard about Worldcoin? Do you have the Worldcoin app?” They asked, I said no and made myself busy, the word coin just put me off, after how the crypto boom quickly died down, I didn’t feel like entertaining any coins plus I had a long day ahead and needed my coffee.
But my interest was piqued, I would look into it, but then again, the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, I couldn’t scroll my socials without seeing “Worldcoin” now, from Tiktok videos to countless tweets, not to mention the WhatsApp statuses. So what is this new trending orb thing?
What is Worldcoin?
So Worldcoin is a cryptocurrency project that aims to provide everyone on Earth with a unique digital identity, a share of the Worldcoin token (WLD).
Worldcoin uses a biometric verification device called the “Orb” to scan people’s irises. Once a person’s iris has been scanned, they are issued a World ID, which is a unique digital identifier that can be used to prove their identity online.
WLD is a cryptocurrency that is distributed to people who have been verified with the Orb. The amount of WLD that each person receives is based on their unique iris pattern. WLD can apparently be used to make payments, purchase goods, and services, and participate in the Worldcoin network.
According to reports, after verification, you get WLD worth about Kshs. 7,000.
You hear it all the time, in order for a Crypto project to work, it must fix something, from unbanking ourselves to communication, so what about Worldcoin? According to the founders, advances in artificial intelligence (AI) –yup We are on AI now, Keep up- have made it increasingly difficult to tell whether online activity, written text, digital artwork, or really anything that exists on the internet came from real humans or AI. The company proposes to help resolve this confusion by deploying a sort of digital passport, based on what it calls “proof of personhood.”
The project was getting tested in a couple of countries including Kenya for a while now and has now been officially launched, but nowhere in the US, where regulatory concerns are holding up the currency’s rollout.
WorldCoin in Kenya
So someone went around telling people how Worldcoin is the future, it is like Bitcoin in January of 2009, they are convincing as many people to sign up and get the free WLD, after which they can hoard and sell when it is worth millions of dollars?
So now Kenyans are rushing to get registered and scanned for their free WLD creating a “Worldcoin Craze”
Some are even straight-up investing their money and buying these coins for Kshs. 100 – 300 per coin so they can hoard or sell at a profit to other fellas who are also looking to make bank with the coins. The idea that this coin will appreciate that much in value is not realistic. Do not be pulled into that foolish scheme.
Nani ako na Worldcoin aniuzie?🤔
— Rinna🇰🇪 (@Rinna1_) July 26, 2023
At the end of it all when no one wants your WLD, you will be left with useless coins.
Who is behind Worldcoin?
The project is being developed by Tools for Humanity, a company founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman known for creating ChatGPT, Max Novendstern, and Alex Blania.
So why is everyone talking about it? One, it’s just been officially launched and people are being incentivized to participate in the Worldcoin project by receiving WLD tokens, given free of charge for ‘simply for being human’, this and the fact that the crypto project has been in development for more than three years helps to ensure that the project gives people some form of hope that it may blow up.
Worldcoin Privacy Concerns
There are a lot of concerns with new cryptocurrency nowadays, but Worldcoin faces a more frowned-upon problem, privacy. When you sign up and use the biometric verification Orb, they scan your iris, and while Worldcoin insists that the Orb is designed to be non-intrusive and privacy-preserving, it raises a lot of questions about what else that data is used for.
Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin expressed his concerns about Worldcoin in a blog post arguing that the platform’s iris scans could be harvesting more information than the company is letting on. “We have no way to verify that it was constructed correctly and does not have backdoors.”
In April last year, an MIT Technology Review article said that Worldcoin used “deceptive marketing practices, collected more personal data than it acknowledged, and failed to obtain meaningful informed consent.”
The fact that they tested the product in third-world countries only attracting over two million sign-ups has also been a red flag with pseudonymous crypto influencer ZachXBT Tweeting “Most alarming to me is how the WorldCoin team has boasted about how many users they have. When in reality they have been exploiting people in developing countries.”
The fact that the project is also associated with Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of failed crypto exchange FTX is also adding salt to injury.
Worldcoin has brushed off these allegations claiming they are not a data company and their business model does not involve exploiting or selling personal user data. But we all know this famous line “If you’re not paying for the product, then you’re the product.”
I personally have my reservations about all this, despite the concept seeming unlikely to appeal to anyone already skeptical of crypto, the privacy concerns, and the shady launch, the problems about AI that the project is trying to solve do not exist, I don’t quite understand how a cryptocurrency will help tell people and machines apart.