OpenAI CEO Sam Altman introduced the world to his new digital currency on Monday. Called Worldcoin, the iris biometric cryptocurrency project invites us to scan our eyeballs > generate a unique digital identity > and cash in our own identities for a new Global ID that can bypass regulators, financial institutions, and state actors in a global economy with a single currency. Everybody wants to rule the world.
At the heart of the Worldcoin project is an eye-scanning orb that enables users to make payments, purchases and transfers that bypass financial institutions and regulators whilst at the same time giving the world’s leading AI company access to the world’s personal data—and DNA. And just as the I.M.F was growing optimistic about the world economy. It expects inflation to ease and growth to increase this year. *Sidebar: The Central Bank raised the interest rates another quarter of a percentage point this week to 5.5 percent.
For nothing comes amiss and money comes withal. Worldcoin, therefore, is offering 25 free tokens in exchange for anyone who turns up at one of the 1500 eyeball scanning locations across 20 countries this year. Sadly, that includes exploitative practices across many of the poorest nations. Outlandish bribe? We often pay dearly for that given freely.
The key, to be clear, of a blockchain, the technology underpinning cryptocurrencies and other distributed networks, is to obscure one’s identity — not collect, parse and collate retina scans for the greater good. As it happens, Altman ultimately intends Worldcoin to be the sole currency for a Universal Basic Income.
Universal Basic Income is a social welfare proposal in which all citizens of a given population regularly receive a guaranteed income in the form of an unconditional transfer payment (without a means test or need to work). It is received independently of any other income. If the level is sufficient to meet a person's basic needs its called a full basic income; if it is less its called a partial basic income. No country has yet introduced either, although there have been numerous pilot projects and the idea is discussed in many countries. Some have labelled UBI utopian due to its historical origin. Altman’s onboard.
Child Benefit > Pensions > Bolsa Familia > even the CARES ACT which sent direct payments to U.S. citizens during the pandemic all date to antiquity. The first proposals to introduce a regular unconditionally paid income for its citizens developed during the feudal system; gains traction during the Industrial Revolution; and has re-emerged around technology, automation, and the relevance of human labor in the age of artificial intelligence.
The central rationale for a Universal Basic Income is the belief that automation and robotization will result in technological unemployment, leading to a world with fewer paid jobs. A key question in this context is whether a basic income could help prevent or alleviate such problems by allowing everyone to benefit from a society's wealth, and asks whether a UBI will result in a resource-based or post-scarcity economy?
The American futurist Martin Ford is a leading scholar on artificial intelligence and robotics, and the impact of technology on the job market, economy and society. "Rule of the Robots: How Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Everything” argues that AI is a systemic, general purpose technology that will ultimately compare to electricity in terms of its impact on the economy and society. Ford argues that AI will be one of humanity's most consequential technologies; transform virtually every industry and aspect of civilization; and lead to structural and involuntary unemployment caused by a mismatch between the skills and demand for human labor being outpaced by machines. *Sidebar: Those dings, cracks and dents in the grill of your new electric BMW are 'self healing' by the way. *Automotive repair shops beware.
In the spirit of Thomas Paine, former President Barack Obama has presciently stated that the cataclysm between artificial intelligence and a global currency will lead to an unconditional free income for everyone. Altman adds:
As AI produces most of the world’s basic goods and services, a fund could be created by taxing land and capital rather than labour. The dividends from that fund could be distributed to every individual and free all people to pursue more creative work.
Brave New World
Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel in 1932 presaged the age of computers.
The first modern electronic digital computer was called the Atanasoff–Berry Computer (ABC). It was built at Iowa State University in 1942 by physics professor John Vincent Atanasoff and his graduate student, Clifford Berry. Atanasoff is credited with coding; separation of the program; and memory. A replica is on display at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.
However, the creators of the Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer (ENIAC) claimed they were the inventors of the first modern computer in 1947. Unfortunately, when it was proven that one of the ENIAC’s inventors had visited, studied and stolen Atanasoff’s ABC in 1941, ENIAC’s patent was revoked in ’73.
Bill Gates and Paul Allen incorporate Microsoft on 4 April 1975 and quickly dominate the personal computing operating system market. Apple followes with a graphical user interface (GUI). It’s icons, emoji and point and click culture acknowledge the steep learning curve of DOS. But it was Huxley’s “Brave New World” that first spoke to the consequences of personal computing with a reference to a parallel universe. He quotes a soliloquy from Miranda in William Shakespeare's "The Tempest:"
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t.
Largely set in a futuristic world state, whose citizens are environmentally engineered into an intelligence-based social hierarchy, Huxley anticipated scientific advancements, reproductive technology, sleep-learning, psychological manipulation, classical conditioning and future of the labor economy ten years before the advent of the personal computer.
But Shakespeare's use of the phrase was ironic, because Miranda in her innocence couldn't see the true nature of the world around her. It was her father, Prospero, the story's protagonist, who points out "'Tis new only to thee my dear,” and with that shall leave you with Altman's own declaration on Monday:
More than three years ago we founded Worldcoin with the ambition of creating a new identity and financial network owned by everyone. That world begins today.