When I step into the hipster-ish cafe where the tell-tale chrome orb is busy scanning one of its first customers on Thursday (Jul 27), I’m greeted by a Worldcoin operator called Paul, a graduate audio engineer, who’s doing this as a summer job after finishing his studies.
A UTOPIAN VISION WITH GLOOMY UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES
As Paul runs through the familiar pitch of Worldcoin’s end goal of proving “personhood” by scanning 8 billion people’s eyes, in turn generating unique identifiers and using that database to verify access to anything from financial services to universal basic income, I note the company logo on his T-shirt – a picture of the world combined with the Greek letter “epsilon” and a circle.
It all feels like a bad episode of Star Trek: A utopian vision intended to escape a future of AI machines, but with its own gloomy unintended consequences. Why should we trust this company to manage such a global digital turnstile?
How easy will it be for others to “enrich” this ID with more of my personal data? And aren’t Worldcoin’s early backers – including the likes of Sam Bankman-Fried and Three Arrows Capital – best placed to cash out first whatever happens?
Unlike Worldcoin’s first “field tests” in countries such as Indonesia, which prompted accounts of exploitation and invasion of privacy, I have a hard time believing many French people would willingly peer into a chrome-shaped orb for a few tokens, at least not without asking some tough questions about reports of a black market for those ID codes in territories such as China.
After all, this is Western Europe, the land of the GDPR, where people take privacy seriously and where tech regulation comes before tech innovation.
CONSENT BECOMES A FUZZY CONCEPT
I’m wrong, it turns out, as a steady line of willing eyeballs mostly belonging to trendy-looking men forms. There’s little chit-chat – the aim is to claim one’s free Worldcoin, and data privacy seems less urgent.