OpenAI CEO Sam Altman Backs Eye-Scanning Crypto Venture Worldcoin

All Eyes on Blockchain. Artwork done by Joanna Andreasson for Paradox.

A Silicon Valley kingmaker is eying your iris.

According to Bloomberg, OpenAI CEO and former Y Combinator President Sam Altman has backed Worldcoin—an early stage cryptocurrency startup which aims to scan irises to create unique identifiers. The orb shaped device costs around $5,000 to make, is roughly the size of a basketball, and has fewer than 20 prototypes deployed throughout several smaller cities. Although the Worldcoin token is not ready for distribution, the company is offering Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to incentivize trial participants who use the product and provide feedback.

“I’ve been very interested in things like universal basic income and what’s going to happen to global wealth redistribution and how we can do that better,” the investor told Bloomberg. “Is there a way we can use technology to do that at global scale?”

The Sam Altman Worldcoin startup promises “a new global digital currency that will launch by giving a share to every single person on earth” according to an online job description. The language of a “global digital currency” is similar to another Sam Altman investment: Reserve Protocol, a “stable, digital currency for countries with high inflation” also backed by Peter Thiel. As the former president of Y Combinator, Altman oversaw the accelerator’s companies Airbnb, Dropbox, and Stripe become the most highly valued startups in the United States.

Worldcoin aims to help economies transition to cryptocurrencies “through a novel approach: a dedicated hardware device ensuring both humanness and uniqueness of everybody signing up, while maintaining their privacy and the overall transparency of a permissionless blockchain.” The project is being led by Alexander Blania, 27, a former student of theoretical physics at the California Institute of Technology and the Max Planck Society.

Other backers to Worldcoin besides Sam Altman include Andreessen Horowitz (the venture capital arm of Coinbase), LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, and Day One Ventures.

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