If Sam Altman has his way, your eyes won’t just be the window to your soul.
The 36-year-old former president of startup incubator Y Combinator quietly cofounded a company by the name of Worldcoin. It seeks to scan people’s eyeballs in exchange for, you guessed it, a custom cryptocurrency. So reports Bloomberg, which notes this scheme relies on “orb-shaped” devices, roughly the size of basketballs, to scan irises in order to create biometric profiles. The company says there are 20 prototypes that have been tested in several unnamed cities around the world, according to Bloomberg.
The supposed point of this crypto-for-iris-scans plot is to promote a universal basic income, built around a cryptocurrency, which uses biometric data as an identifier. And there appears to be real money behind it, with Bloomberg saying Worldcoin is backed by (among others) Andreessen Horowitz. Bloomberg reports it has raised $25 million.
At first glance, it may seem that Worldcoin cryptocurrency, which CoinMarketCap lists as trading as far back as 2013, is related to Altman’s company. However, Alex Blania, one of the other cofounders of the eye-scanning Worldcoin, confirmed over email that the cryptocurrency of the same name listed on CoinMarketCap is in fact a different project.
“We are not live yet and also not yet ready for a public announcement,” wrote Blania over email.
This is not the first odd project Altman has dived into head first. In 2018, Altman paid the startup Nectome a $10,000 deposit to one day kill him (yes, for real) and preserve his brain with the hope that it might be — at some future point — uploaded to a computer.
All of which might explain why Altman thinks people will be so cavalier about handing their biometric data over to a private company in exchange for some magic internet money.
Either way, the man who in 2017 publicly lamented that San Francisco wasn’t as accepting of controversial ideas as China now wants to scan your eyeballs. Welcome to the extremely dumb future.
UPDATE: June 29, 2021, 3:26 p.m. PDT: This story has been updated to include comment from Worldcoin’s Alex Blania.