Worldcoin is here — just not here in the US

Worldcoin founders say artificial intelligence can fund a universal basic income — just not in the United States


Kotin/Shutterstock modified by Blockworks


Worldcoin is here, but only for people outside of the United States. 

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman co-founded Worldcoin, a cryptocurrency project complete with a token and “World ID,” designed to act as a digital passport. The project launched Monday. 

Worldcoin’s terms of service makes the American blockade quite clear: “WLD tokens are not intended to be available for use, purchase, or access by US persons, including US citizens, residents, or persons in the United States, or companies incorporated, located, or resident in the United States, or who have a registered agent in the United States.”

Yet even though US citizens cant use, purchase or access the tokens, Worldcoin included Americans cities — Miami, San Francisco and New York City — in its “Orb tour,” which is intended to “educate and answer questions about the protocol and facilitate sign-ups for World ID using the Orb.” 

Anyone who completes an Orb scan in the US will not be able to participate in the token drop, a Worldcoin representative at a New York City pop-up location told Blockworks Monday. 

An open letter penned by Altman and co-founder Alex Blania suggested that the token was being made available in more legally permissible areas of the world. 

“Worldcoin consists of a privacy-preserving digital identity (World ID) and, where laws allow, a digital currency (WLD) received simply for being human,” Altman and Blania wrote. “We hope that, where the rules are less clear, such as in the U.S., steps will be taken so more people can benefit from both.” 

To be sure, Altman and company are betting on artificial intelligence continuing to improve. It will get so much better, Altman believes, that eventually, it will become impossible to distinguish between AI and real humans. World ID is how someone can prove they’re human, with Worldcoin as the means of payment tied to that digital identity. 

“If successful, we believe Worldcoin could drastically increase economic opportunity, scale a reliable solution for distinguishing humans from AI online while preserving privacy, enable global democratic processes, and eventually show a potential path to AI-funded [universal basic income],” the open letter states.

When asked on a recent Blockworks podcast episode why to not instead rely on government solutions such as know-your-customer (KYC) rules, Blania replied, “The short answer is you can rely on some governments, or you probably could. The question is then still if you should.” 

“Using government KYC will work for some countries. It will not work for the majority of the world because most countries just don’t have a great identity system,” Blania added. 

To create a World ID, users must complete an iris scan, an in-person data collection using the Worldcoin “Orb,” a silver ball with cameras and sensors to capture the biometric information. 

Individuals who receive an scan of their irises must consent to biometric data collection. The consent form has three options: disagree (no scan will be completed), agree to Orb scan but opt out of data custody (image data is not transferred or stored) and agree to Orb scan and data custody. 

Individuals who agreed to the third option consent to having their data stored and sent to “teams in the European Union and the United States.”

Molly Jane Zuckerman contributed reporting.

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