What is Sam Altman’s biometric project?

Recently, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman took to Twitter to formally re-introduce Worldcoin, a project of his that was eclipsed by the popularity of ChatGPT.

About Worldcoin

  • It is an initiative to create a digital network in which everyone can claim some kind of stake, and join the digital economy.
  • Using a device called “Orb,” Worldcoin volunteers known as ‘Orb operators’ scan a person’s iris pattern to collect their biometric data and help them get a World ID through the World app.
  • Worldcoin claims it is building the “world’s largest identity and financial public network” open to people worldwide.

Working of Worldcoin

  • The users need to be willing to scan irises and/or get their own irises scanned.
  • Volunteers sign up to be “Orb operators” in their locality and receive basic training and a biometric device with which to scan irises.
  • Orb operators can even rent out the Orb to others to let them scan eyeballs as well.
  • Those who have their irises scanned and collect a World ID can use this to claim the WLD crypto, which they may use for transactions or hold on to the asset in the hope that its price might rise, as it did after launching.
  • However, users can also buy or sell WLD without getting scanned or using the app.
  • In return for signing up more people to the Worldcoin network, Orb operators get WLD, which is a token based on the Ethereum blockchain.
  • Ethereum has a native coin, Ether, which is the second-largest crypto by market capitalisation.
  • However, anyone can create a token which runs on the Ethereum blockchain. WLD is one such cryptocurrency.

Biometrics involved

  • Worldcoin explained that it wanted to include everyone in its network and that using biometric information to avoid duplication was a valid method for this.
  • The company claimed that India had “proven the effectiveness of biometrics” through its Aadhaar system.
  • Worldcoin notes that Aadhaar IDs stopped people from signing up multiple times to benefit from social welfare schemes.
  • The company said that it uses a technology known as zero-knowledge proofs (ZKPs) to maintain users’ privacy.
  • Worldcoin has also said it is fully compliant with Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
  • People who are interested in obtaining a World ID do not need to reveal their names, phone numbers, email addresses, or residential addresses in order to do so.
  • Images collected by the Orb are used to generate a unique iris code.
  • By default these images are immediately deleted once the iris code is created, unless the user opts in to Data Custody.

Criticism and concerns

  • Worldcoin was criticised long before its re-launch.
  • A whistleblower ointed out that even if a person’s biometric scans were deleted for privacy reasons — as Worldcoin said it would do — the unique identifier for the scan would match future scans of the same person’s eyes.

Worldcoin and India

According to the company website, it has. Worldcoin lists 18 locations, largely in Delhi, Noida, and Bangalore, where Orb operators are scanning people’s eyes. Some locations include popular malls and metro stations in these cities.


  • It is able to answer “follow-up questions” and is also able to “admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests.”
  • It is derived from the GPT 3.5 series of language learning models (LLM) that the company has developed.
  • Generative Pre-trained Transformer is a type of computer language model that makes use of deep learning strategies to generate text that is eerily similar to that produced by humans based on the information that is fed into the model.
  • Because the model is trained to predict what will come next, one can technically have a ‘conversation’ with ChatGPT. This is due to the fact that the model is trained to predict what will come next.
  • Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback, also known as RLHF, was another method used to train the chatbot.


  • While the Worldcoin project’s ambition to create a secure digital identity system is commendable, it has also given rise to legitimate privacy concerns.
  • The collection and storage of biometric data, such as iris scans, raise questions about the potential misuse of this sensitive information.
  • Additionally, the idea of a global identification system may lead to fears of surveillance and centralized control over personal data.