Some of Silicon Valley’s biggest names are working on a hugely ambitious project to distribute cryptocurrency as a form of global basic income, and biometric technology is poised to play a key role.
The effort was unveiled in a scoop by Bloomberg which effectively became a kind of soft launch, with project principals and funders not yet ready for a formal announcement. Two of those directors, however – Sam Altman and Alexander Blania – were willing to share some details with the post’s Gillian Tan and Ellen Huet.
Altman is best known as the former chairman of Y Combinator, a prestigious Silicon Valley incubator program that has helped spur the growth of big names like Airbnb, Dropbox and Stripe under his leadership. Today he is the head of a AI research company called OpenAI, which was founded in partnership with Tesla CEO Elon Musk (although Musk has since left the company).
As Altman recounts, he started thinking about the idea of using cryptocurrency as a tool for distributing wealth in 2019, and subsequently co-founded Worldcoin, a startup meant to put that idea into practice, with Alexander Blania and Max Novendstern.
Parts for the world
Which cryptocurrency to use has yet to be named and is currently under development. Worldcoin’s plan, according to a job listing found online, is to distribute a portion of this cryptocurrency “to every person on earth.” Importantly, the accounts will be linked to the iris biometrics of crypto holders, which will be digitized using special devices also developed by Worldcoin.
If the concept of basic crypto income isn’t interesting enough, the device that will facilitate end-user authentication may raise eyebrows. According to the Bloomberg report, it’s a silver-colored spherical orb that’s about the size of a basketball, and the current prototype costs around $ 5,000 to make per unit. Worldcoin is currently engaged in live orb trials in which end users are asked to enter their biometric data, with compensation offered in the form of Bitcoin and other currently available cryptocurrencies.
The use of biometrics is quite common in the cryptocurrency space, perhaps because the latter is even more motivated by early adopters than the financial services industry in general, where biometric technology has also been. widely adopted. Most often, biometrics are used to secure access to wallets and crypto exchanges, as well as for integration.
In the aforementioned job posting, Worldcoin indicated that its plan is to use biometric technology for the latter purpose, explaining that its solution will use “a dedicated hardware device ensuring both humanity and uniqueness for all. the users”. But it’s not yet clear that Worldcoin has plans for its own wallet, whether in the form of a mobile app or even a physical hardware wallet like those used in digital currency trials in China.
It is also possible that Worldcoin’s use of biometrics enables bare payments in which the biometrics of an end user is directly linked to an account and therefore can be used to authorize purchases without the need for a wallet, d ” a mobile device or any other type of equipment.
Obviously, this is an ambitious project, but the cost and rather large form factor of Worldcoin’s mysterious biometric orb may arouse some skepticism among players in the biometrics industry, who have seen the costs and the material footprint decrease dramatically in recent years.
That being said, the Worldcoin project demands to be taken seriously, if only thanks to the strength of its backers and its ties to the elites of Silicon Valley. In addition to Altman, the startup’s investors include Andreessen Horowitz, Day One Ventures and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman; and co-founder Max Novendstern previously worked at Bridgewater Associates, the investment firm of Bitcoin convert Ray Dalio. The company recently contributed $ 25 million in a funding round, according to the Bloomberg report.
June 29, 2021 – by Alex Perala