In case you’re unfamiliar with Worldcoin, it’s an “open-source protocol” started by OpenAI founder Sam Altman. It uses metallic orbs to scan irises as a “proof-of-person” and provides those who volunteer their biometric data with 25 Worldcoins — a cryptocurrency that isn’t currently exchangeable for any real-world goods or tradeable on any exchange.
Worldcoin, for lack of a better term, is now suffering from a massive optics problem.
First of all, while the platform already boasts that — apparently — hundreds of millions of individuals have lent their irises to the company and its shiny orbs, the crypto that backs it, Worldcoin, isn’t able to be given out in the US and many other countries.
Reasons given for this range from the fact it may be a security in the eyes of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), to not wanting the tokens to wind up in the hands of terrorist states like North Korea.
In essence, this means that while the company’s lofty goal is to acquire the entire world’s biometric data, it’s unable to provide many individuals with any rewards whatsoever.
Open-source and decentralized (but not really)
Secondly, the protocol, which claims to be totally open-source, simply isn’t. Indeed, the fact that some infrastructure repositories and hardware specs aren’t viewable for public audit, makes it basically closed-source. The Worldcoin Foundation will apparently be “opening more source code over time.”
It’s also chasing the goal of decentralization, which is laughable in the face of a single entity controlling all the coins. The official line is that the company controlling Worldcoin — Tools for Humanity — is moving its control to a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) and the Worldcoin Foundation. These will be based in the corporate offshore capitals of the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands — funny destinations for a company that proclaims it seeks transparency.
OpenAI, broken promises, and corporate funding
Sam Altman recently testified in front of Congress, stating he wanted government regulation of the artificial intelligence industry and that he has no equity in OpenAI whatsoever. What he failed to mention was that OpenAI, much like Worldcoin and its orbs, initially promised to be a not-for-profit, open-sourced foundation set on the betterment of humanity.
It is, in fact, none of those things, which makes it all the more difficult to believe that Worldcoin will adhere to its mission statement.
But what’s perhaps most troubling is that Worldcoin has secured over $125 million in venture capital funding from sources like a16z, Coinbase Ventures, and Khosla Ventures (plus more dubious sources like Sam Bankman-Fried and Three Arrows Capital). This suggests that the intention was likely never intended to be totally open-source, decentralized, and net-positive for the world, but instead just another corporate capital punt hoping to make billionaires wealthier.
Worldcoin has a serious optics problem and it doesn’t seem like it can overcome it anytime soon.