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OpenAI's Sam Altman rattles tin for crypto startup that will support bot-replaced workers

Idea is to scan irises to disburse universal basic income just for being human

Say what you want about Sam Altman, but at least he's been thinking about the consequences of his actions, even if his solution is hella creepy.

According to the Financial Times, the OpenAI CEO's crypto side hustle, Worldcoin, is about to secure another $100 million in funding following a private token sale last year raising the same amount, valuing the company at $3 billion.

Who is going to invest so much in cryptocurrency ventures after the sector collectively soiled the sheets with the collapse of Samuel Bankman-Fried's FTX in late 2022?

Previous participants include Khosla Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz, entrepreneur Reid Hoffman, as well as SBF himself.

The FT's sources suggest the project is in "advanced talks" to raise the cash ahead of launch in a few weeks, and both new and existing investors are said to be reaching for their wallets. Worldcoin declined to comment.

What makes it different from any other dime-a-dozen crypto scheme, though, is the dystopia factor. Bear with us here because it's a bit weird, but Worldcoin execs say the focus is:

Distinguishing between humans and bots, and providing a form of universal basic income which might offset job losses caused by AI.

So Altman, who co-founded Worldcoin in 2019, is searching for a solution to a problem that he helped create with OpenAI, which is very shrewd.

Worldcoin wants everyone on the planet to share in its cryptocurrency, but how it plans to do this is where it gets disturbing. To lock out bots and prevent multiple sign-ups by one person, Worldcoin proposes that users ponder this "Orb":

The Orb, which will be run by an "Orb Operator," scans the user's iris. Because all human irises are unique, like fingerprints, this verifies Worldcoin's concept of "personhood" on the blockchain, "then creates a digital World ID that can be used pseudonymously in a wide variety of everyday applications without revealing the user's identity," the company says.

The Orb Operator earns Worldcoin, a "Layer 2" Ethereum-based cryptocurrency, or fiat currency for every user that they verify. The user receives free access to Worldcoin once their iris has been scanned.

"[Worldcoin] started with a discussion that universal basic income will eventually be something that is very important to the world, and in general, getting access to the internet economy will be much more important than is obvious at this point," CEO Alex Blania told TechCrunch last year.

It hauntingly implies that Altman and Blania's vision of automation will eradicate jobs for everyday people, which, while an enticing thought, suggests that we'd all be the same financially irrespective of personal talents, skills, interests, and knowledge.

The project's documentation says: "It is core to the mission of Worldcoin that the network is not built and run by a single entity, but instead by entrepreneurial individuals all around the world who apply to receive an Orb to run independent operations in their communities. We call these individuals Orb Operators and give them the autonomy to build their operations from the ground up, doing everything from running their own marketing campaigns to collaborating with local partners."

Onboarding people is the major hurdle, yet Worldcoin hopes to have 1 billion users within the next two years, presumably through Orb Operators telling people how great Worldcoin is, according to a diagram in the documentation.

All the same, the endeavor has been called "the worst of what cryptocurrency has to offer." Are you convinced yet? ®

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