Tools For Humanity, the developer of Worldcoin, has successfully raised $115 million in a Series C funding round led by Blockchain Capital, with participation from a16z crypto, Bain Capital Crypto and Distributed Global.
Worldcoin, the iris-scanning crypto project that aims at combating AI bots, was established in 2019. It was created by Silicon Valley alum Sam Altman, known for his artificial intelligence-based startup OpenAI, along with Max Novendstern and Alex Blania.
Tools for Humanity predicts a future where AI bots are indistinguishable from humans online, a sentiment that Eddy Lazzarin, CTO at Andreessen Horowitz Crypto, agrees with. “It’s very clear that it’s going to become more and more difficult to disentangle what was generated by a machine and what was generated by a person,” said the executive.
Blania, CEO of Tools for Humanity, said, “As we embark on the age of AI, it is imperative that individuals are able to maintain personal privacy while proving their humanness.” Therefore, the team proposes a solution that involves scanning adults’ irises using the company’s orb-like device to verify their “personhood.”
The team argues that iris scans are the most effective way to verify a person’s uniqueness, as alternatives such as fingerprints, face identification and state-issued licenses are either hackable or unscalable.
The Worldcoin crypto token, serves to reward individuals who supply the iris scans to the team. Tools for Humanity plans to launch the token later this year. Currently, fewer than 2 million individuals have signed up.
Worldcoin encountered challenges during the crypto winter despite its significant funding, including a prolonged beta-testing period due to plummeting crypto prices.
Media reports claiming exploitation and corruption further hindered the project’s progress, particularly in developing markets. However, the increased focus on AI, including Altman’s massively popular ChatGPT, has revitalized Worldcoin’s purpose.
In order to enhance its offering, Worldcoin launched World ID in March, a protocol that allows other platforms to utilize its “proof of personhood” system as a digital credentialing mechanism to distinguish between humans and bots.
Privacy, however, ironically still remains a major concern for the project, and understandably, many are reluctant to volunteer their biometric data to a private company.
“For good reason, folks get concerned and sensitive when it comes to biometrics — particularly so when you add a dose of crypto,” Spencer Bogart, general partner at Blockchain Capital, wrote in a post on Wednesday.
It has been reported that unauthorized markets selling World ID credentials have emerged in spite of Tools for Humanity’s “privacy-first” technological innovations. Critics have also pointed out that with its renewed focus on combating AI’s negative consequences, Worldcoin is essentially just addressing problems created by Altman’s other venture.
“One Altman entity manufactures a problem, and the other sells a solution to the problem they manufactured,” said Elizabeth Renieris, Senior Research Associate at Oxford’s Institute for Ethics in AI.
“The relationship is a bit like pharmaceutical companies who place dangerous, highly addictive drugs on the market and then try to sell new drugs to treat the very addiction they helped create.”
It is known that Worldcoin might be limited as to where it operates as well. Due to regulatory uncertainty, Worldcoin has reportedly chosen not to launch its token in the U.S. It also won’t be available in markets where cryptocurrencies are banned.
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