Worldcoin is turning reality into a Black Mirror-like scenario.

Worldcoin is turning reality into a Black Mirror-like scenario.

The Blockchain Industry and the Worldcoin Dilemma

Scanning your iris to become a “verified human” in exchange for digital currency sounds like a Black Mirror episode. But this is not the story arc of a dystopian science fiction show — it’s happening now with one of the latest projects in Web3.

In recent times, the blockchain industry has witnessed remarkable advancements and innovative projects that push the boundaries of what was once thought possible. One such project that has generated a significant amount of buzz is Worldcoin, which recently launched on the Optimism blockchain. However, the launch of Worldcoin has sparked debates and concerns regarding its potential ramifications on decentralization, privacy, and sovereignty.

Unveiling Worldcoin & Its Purpose

Worldcoin, a project founded to address the anticipated externalities of its sister company OpenAI, aims to increase economic opportunity, create a reliable solution for distinguishing humans from AI online while preserving privacy, enable global democratic processes, and potentially pave the way for AI-funded universal basic income (UBI).

At first glance, these objectives may seem admirable, hinting at a potential utopian future. However, the means through which Worldcoin plans to achieve its goals have raised eyebrows and given rise to legitimate concerns.

The underlying principle of Worldcoin is that individuals in underserved areas can sign up and share their biometric data, such as iris scans, in exchange for 25 WLD, the native digital currency of Worldcoin. With over 2 million people having already enrolled in the program, it is apparent that there is a demand for the promised financial reward.

The Problem with Worldcoin

Despite the purported ambitions and promises of safeguarding privacy, Worldcoin’s centralized nature is a cause for concern. When prompted about the risks associated with a single company owning biometric data for individuals in underdeveloped countries, ChatGPT, an AI developed by OpenAI, lays bare some of the perceived risks: privacy violations, security breaches, and surveillance and sovereignty concerns.

Privacy Violations

Biometric data, including irises, is highly sensitive and unique to each individual. It holds the potential to reveal details such as sex, ethnicity, and even medical conditions. The concentration of this data in the hands of a single entity heightens the risk of privacy violations, as it could be used to track and monitor individuals without their consent. Such actions undermine the progress made in protecting user privacy over the years.

Security Breaches

Centralization of biometric data also makes it a prime target for hackers and cybercriminals. The concept of a “honeypot” arises, where attractive data is stored by a single entity with the expectation that it will eventually be hacked. A security breach of this magnitude could result in severe consequences, including identity theft, fraud, and unauthorized access to the personal information of millions of people.

Surveillance and Sovereignty

If this data falls into the hands of governments, they may subpoena it and gain access to their citizens’ personal information without a warrant. Selling data to a third party reduces the legal protections surrounding its use, potentially leading to abuse by corrupt governments. This scenario threatens to convert underdeveloped regions into surveillance states and compromises the autonomy and sovereignty of countries’ democratic processes.

Moreover, the international nature of Worldcoin’s operations could grant it undue power and influence over governments and societies. Being financially responsible for a significant number of foreign citizens under the UBI model could potentially undermine a country’s democratic decision-making processes.

The Human Identity Conundrum

One striking aspect of the Worldcoin project is the promotional sticker given to individuals after scanning their irises: “Verified Human.” This choice of words raises questions about the commodification of identity and personhood. By reducing individuals to mere “humans” in a vast database of biometric data, the project inadvertently hints at a loss of the unique personhood that defines us. It’s a disconcerting reminder of the potential consequences when personal identity is traded for monetary gain and technological advancement.

In conclusion, while the advent of blockchain technology has brought significant benefits to various sectors, the Worldcoin project highlights the potential risks and ethical dilemmas that can arise. The centralized nature of its approach to using biometric data poses threats to privacy, security, and sovereignty. As the blockchain industry continues to evolve, it is essential to evaluate projects critically and prioritize principles that uphold decentralization, privacy, and individual sovereignty.