OpenAI’s CEO to get $100 million to scan everyone’s eyes for new crypto project

After going mainstream with ChatGPT, OpenAI's CEO is now embarking on a new challenge online.

Sam Altman actually co-founded Worldcoin in 2019 with the mission of “building the world’s largest identity and financial network.” Now, he seems to be close to securing $ 100 million of funds to kickstart the next step of the project: scanning everyone's eyeball to grant them free access to the new global cryptocurrency.

Some commentators have already expressed concerns about the ethical and privacy issues that could arise from it. So, will this end up being another privacy nightmare very much like his AI-powered bot?  

Iris-scanning ID verification system

According to the official website, Worldcoin is a new global cryptocurrency that aims to “create universal access to the global economy regardless of country or background, accelerating the transition to an economic future that welcomes and benefits every person on the planet.”

Quite an ambitious mission, but how do its founders plan to do that?

The key to the whole project seems to be what they refer to as the Orb. This is software that “uses iris biometrics to establish an individual’s unique personhood.” Once users have been verified, they can create their digital World ID and start receiving the crypto tokens. 

The company ensures that the World ID, which was released last week in Beta together with the World App, “can be used pseudonymously in a wide variety of everyday applications without revealing the user’s identity.”

This technology, the so-called proof of personhood protocol, is also believed to tackle some of the biggest issues raised by the quick development of AI-powered tools. It will discern between a real person and a bot, for example. Developers even believe that it could help provide a universal basic income to those affected by job cuts caused by AI.

Not everyone seems to be thrilled by the idea, though. Famous US whistleblower Edward Snowden raised concerns about the practice back in 2021. At the time, he pointed out how Worldcoin would de-facto build a global database of people's iris scans, keeping them in the form of hashes able to “match with future scans.”

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The company ensures that it will not store eye scans. It also says that the device is safe to use and will not hurt people's irises. 

Three people with knowledge of the deal have said to the Financial Times that Wordlcoin is now in “advanced talks to raise fresh cash as it prepares to launch in the next few weeks.”

The startup seems to be attracting new investors, too, alongside previous names like FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried and internet entrepreneur Reid Hoffman.

Despite still operating on Beta, Worldcoin counts over 1.7 million sign-ups across the world so far, but the numbers are very likely to get higher soon.  

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Energy news round-up: energy bills set to rise by almost £100, plus more from the last seven days

This week in energy: COVID-19 continues to impact energy customers in the UK in various ways, with warnings of a surprise energy bill at the end of the summer. We've also seen precautionary measures by energy suppliers to support prepaid meter customers; Bristol City Council’s intended sale of Bristol Energy after it ran up a major loss; and more. Here's our round-up of what happened in energy in the last seven days…

Customers could face surprise energy bills of around £94

Research conducted by Energy Helpline has reported that UK energy customers could be faced with a surprise £94 energy bill by the end of the summer. That's due to above-average energy consumption, thanks to the lockdown. 

It seems that Brits have been consuming 30 per cent more energy than normal, while direct debits remain calculated on the basis of pre-lockdown usage. In some cases this could lead to customers being trapped in a debt-spiral. 

The best way of resolving this, of course, is to run an energy comparison and switch energy supplier to take advantage of a cheaper energy deal. However, Energy Helpline is also advising customers to fit energy efficient lightbulbs, take shorter showers and avoid appliances being left on standby. 

Assistance for prepaid meter customers

Money Saving Expert (MSE) has advised this week that some people who are self-isolating may experience difficulty in topping up their prepaid meters, but a number of energy companies have said they will assist if necessary. 

The Government and energy suppliers have agreed to implement a set of emergency measures specifically to assist prepaid meter customers. These measures include the provision of cards loaded with emergency credit, adding discretionary credit to meters and enabling others to top meters on behalf of those using them. Ofgem has also said it expects providers to support prepaid meter customers, including those in vulnerable circumstances. 

Vulnerable customers can also join the Priority Services Register in order to receive various services for free, including advanced notice of planned power cuts, priority support in emergencies and regular meter reading services. 

Coronavirus impacts on smart meter installation

MSE has also reported that energy providers have temporarily suspended the installation of smart meters in homes during the lockdown period. This means that engineers will only attend homes if there is an emergency situation, for example involving a loss of energy supply. 

However, as lockdown restrictions are eased, providers will again allow engineers to attend homes for meter installation. E.on, Npower, Ovo and SSE have all resumed installation, but this is only in England and only on a limited basis. Clearly, they will not install a meter in any household where someone is self-isolating, at higher risk or has experienced symptoms over the last month or so. 

Providers are also letting customers know that an engineer will only attend their home where residents feel comfortable with them doing so. 

Bristol City Council to sell Bristol Energy

BBC News and other media have reported that Bristol City Council will now sell its council-owned company Bristol Energy following losses of more than £30 million. Some councillors have called for an inquiry into the matter, which has also been the subject of considerable discussion on social media. 

The council finally took the decision to sell Bristol Energy following a recommendation from accountant Ernst and Young. Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees said that he was disappointed that it hadn’t worked.

  • Read more: BBC

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