Company Pays to Identify Your Iris

Read this week ‘s column by Ronaldo Lemos for Folha de São Paulo

published in

31 de July de 2023


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ChatGPT Creator’s Project Aims to Establish a Unique Identity for Every Person on Earth

The brain behind ChatGPT is dead serious about making waves. Just last week, Sam Altman officially unveiled the Worldcoin project. The idea is simple yet incredibly ambitious: to create a distinct digital identity for every single individual on the planet. The game plan? Hand out approximately $20 to each person who willingly steps up to be recognized in their system.

How do you get recognized? Well, that’s where a nifty little gadget called The Orb comes in. Picture a sleek silver sphere decked out with a camera and specialized eye-reading sensors. It’s like something straight out of an episode of “Black Mirror.” You hold up this sphere close to your face; it scans your peepers, capturing a snapshot of your iris. All this fancy tech is linked to a mobile app that holds onto cryptographic keys, which can then double up as your digital identity.

Through the app, which doubles as a wallet for cryptocurrency, the person who’s been recognized can pocket their $20 in virtual coins. Over in Japan, news trickled in about queues forming on the very first day (the company’s boasting about identifying more than 2 million folks already). But in other corners of the world, interest seems to be a bit lackluster, with quite a few open slots.

For instance, in São Paulo, there are four spots you can drop by to sign up with an Orb, mostly clustered near Faria Lima. Guess what? They’re all just brimming with vacant spots for days and weeks to come. There were no queues in sight (or much enthusiasm) among the Brazilian people.

By the way, it is worth mentioning that the folks operating the Orbs are pocketing around $3 for every person they help register.

Now, with the advent of Worldcoin, Sam Altman and his 29-year-old partner in crime, Alex Blania, are taking a giant leap. First off, they’re banking on the idea that as artificial intelligence grows, there will be a need to provide some basic income for those who might end up jobless. But the million-dollar question is, how and who gets paid? That’s where Worldcoin swoops in, with a plan to not only certify recipients’ identities but also create a cryptocurrency and an app for seamless payments.

And now for the grand finale: Worldcoin’s aiming to tackle one of today’s most challenging conundrums – establishing a digital identity. Most countries have fumbled the ball on this one, but Estonia and India stand as exceptions. Sam Altman’s company is stepping up to plug this gap. Since most governments haven’t quite nailed it, he’s taking the wheel.

Critics have been firing off their gripes at the project left and right – neocolonialism, privacy concerns, and the centralization of power. Some even speculate it’s a thinly veiled attempt to launch a fresh cryptocurrency, all dressed up as a humanitarian effort, with the potential to be more about speculating and enriching the creators and managers.

Also, quick side note – a few other projects are in the works for crafting global digital identities that promise to pay their users, like Proof of Humanity, cooked up by the Chilean mastermind Santiago Siri.

Amidst the hubbub, Altman’s project poses a real challenge. If Brazil and other developing nations don’t step up to the plate and figure out their digital identity game, they might just end up having solutions imposed on them from the outside. And if they’re not ready to deal with the ripples of artificial intelligence, they could soon be taking that giant leap, but this time, it might just be a leap into the abyss.

What’s Out: Overlooking digital identity and Artificial Intelligence issues

What’s In: Projects like Worldcoin, Proof of Humanity, BrightID, Idena, Circles, and others that are striving to create digital identities

What’s Next: Criticism and concern about privacy, security, and centralization