Sam Altman’s Worldcoin token to launch Monday

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The Scoop

The Worldcoin token, a cryptocurrency created in part by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, is set to launch Monday, according to people familiar with the matter.

The token has been controversial in Silicon Valley for its ambitious and unorthodox approach to trying to solve two vexing problems: Online identity authentication and income inequality.

But in recent conversations with investors, Altman has played his ace card, using advances in AI to entice people to put money into Tools for Humanity, the company behind Worldcoin, according to people briefed on the matter. If the value of the coin increases, it could be a massive windfall for Altman and other investors.

The token economics — a breakdown of how the tokens will be distributed — will be made public Monday, the people said.

Tools for Humanity has offered people around the world free Worldcoin tokens, called “WLD,” in exchange for scanning their irises with a device called “The Orb.” The iris scans ensure that each person can have only one Worldcoin ID.

That unique ID could be used to tell real people apart from bots — an increasingly urgent problem in the age of large language models like ChatGPT. And it could help reduce or eliminate fraud if and when governments decide to distribute “universal basic income” to their citizens.

Altman has long been a proponent of universal basic income as a way to combat income inequality. He’s told investors in the Worldcoin project that artificial intelligence could exacerbate the issue.

A spokeswoman for Tools for Humanity declined to comment. Early Sunday, the company tweeted “It’s happening,” which a person familiar with the matter said is a veiled reference to the launch of the coin.

According to the company’s web site, Worldcoin will not be distributed to people in the U.S. because of regulatory uncertainty as the Securities and Exchange Commission cracks down on the crypto industry.

It’s unclear whether co-founders and investors — many of whom live in the U.S. — would be allowed to receive the coins outside the States.

Know More

The tech industry is known for unorthodox ideas, some of which turn into billion-dollar companies. But even in Silicon Valley, Tools for Humanity and the iris-scanning Orb stand out.

The Orb is up against growing hostility to the collection of personally identifiable data. And Worldcoin will launch at a time when skepticism of cryptocurrency is high.

Last year, BuzzFeed reported that people were upset that their iris had been scanned with the Orb and they had not received the coins. People scanned by the Orb have received “grants,” and will not receive the tokens until Monday.

And CoinDesk reported that users of the orb had sold their unique IDs on the black market.

But it could turn out to be a smart investment for Altman. Semafor previously reported that he took no equity in OpenAI, but he could still profit from the company in other ways and Worldcoin is one of them.