3 min read

What is Worldcoin: Sam Altman’s Hedge on Generative AI?

Generative AI will either be the best or worst thing to happen to humanity. It’s hard to see an in-between with the rate of change and exponential impact it’s already having.

Foreseeing the major issues it will bring is the easy part. Two of them are the lack of accountability/identity for content created with AI and the mass automation of skilled knowledge work. Solving these issues (in a timely manner) is the hard part.

Sam Altman has been working on a platform called Worldcoin for some time, which could mitigate some of these problems.

What is World ID, Worldcoin, and World App?

There are three technologies that interplay to create a new platform for identity and finance online:

  1. World ID is a digital identifier that proves you are a real and unique person while fully protecting your privacy.
  2. Worldcoin is a token to be globally and freely distributed to people, for both utility and future governance, just for being a unique individual.
  3. World App is a wallet that enables payment, purchases and transfers globally using the Worldcoin token, digital assets, and traditional currencies.

The purpose of these technologies echoes the ethos of Web3 that you should be familiar with from the last few years. For a refresher, this is what the technologies solve.

One, it’s a means of creating singular and secure digital identities online with the blockchain.

World ID is like a global digital passport that lives locally on its holder’s phone without sharing personal data using zero-knowledge proofs. World ID supports multiple types of verifications that accomplish this with varying degrees of accuracy. At launch, this includes phone number verification and privacy-preserving iris verifications using a technology called Orb.

Two, it’s a means of creating more equitable access to financial services and DeFi (decentralized finance).

World App is a digital wallet that allows for peer-to-peer payments, online banking, and other digital currency related services. The wallet is built on Ethereum and runs on Polygon, with plans to run on an Ethereum rollup.

According to Worldcoin.org, over 1.6 million people have joined the World App pre-release, more than 500,000 of which use it every month. On a typical day, it sees around 60,000 transactions and 25,000 World ID checks among other actions from over 100,000 people in a handful of countries.

Why Did Sam Altman Create This?

The applications of blockchain-based identities are wide-reaching. If successful, World ID will become the largest network of authentic humans on the internet. With verified digital identities comes a lot of solutions to existing problems. For example:

  • Social networks. Bot protection, community moderation, and content attribution.
  • Voting. DAO governance, government elections, online polls, and census.
  • Financial services. Undercollateralized lending, card fraud, and compliance.
  • Customer incentives. Loyalty programs, coupons, referrals, and free trials.
  • Marketplaces. Reputation, fake reviews, fake transactions, and scalper prevention.
  • Money distribution. Government welfare, non-profit aid, scholarships, crypto airdrops, and UBI.

Of all these benefits, two stand out clearly among the rest: content attribution and UBI.

I imagine there’s a future where we have to use our World ID in order to use Generative AI tools like ChatGPT. This would provide a way to watermark or fingerprint the human-source of AI creations and prevent some of the problems with misleading/nefarious content.

Furthermore, the Worldcoin platform could become the payment portal for querying Generative AI. They’ve already tokenized the use of their GPT APIs and they also charge for GPT-4, so it would make sense that they move toward a pay-per-query model, which Worldcoin would streamline.

Lastly, if OpenAI is right about the impact of GPT-X (and Generative AI, as a whole) on the labor market – with some 300 million jobs at risk – then we will need a platform like Worldcoin in order to mitigate the fallout on society.

Sam Altman has been spearheading Universal Basic Income (UBI) for years.

Universal basic income is a social welfare proposal in which all citizens of a given population regularly receive a guaranteed income in the form of an unconditional transfer payment. It would be received independently of any other income. Basically, it’s a stipend to supplement one’s income, theoretically, alleviating financial hardship.

Altman (among others) believes that UBI may be a necessity in a world where Generative AI displaces millions of workers. And AI would directly help pay for UBI, considering AI companies would be profiting from the labor shift.

Worldcoin, or a platform like it, would be a necessity for AI-funded UBI to work properly. World App would handle all of the disbursements instantaneously, unlike the Covid stimulus checks. And World ID would prevent identity fraud and double-dipping, unlike the Covid stimulus checks.

If you look at Worldcoin through the lens of UBI and Generative AI usage, then it makes more sense as to why Sam Altman sees these as interconnected services and is so keen on getting everyone on this platform.

I’d recommend you sign-up for the World App and claim your World ID. The process is simple. You can download the World App here. Also, they’re incentivizing early users with Worldcoin grants (free crypto disbursements).