My Understanding of the Encryption Project WorldCoin

WorldCoin Encryption Project: My Understanding

Recently, besides meme coins and the Bitcoin ecosystem, the hottest project is probably WorldCoin.

Actually, this project appeared a long time ago. I remember seeing this project at the end of last year or the beginning of this year.

When I first saw this project, two things impressed me: one was that the founder and investors of this project are all well-known figures; the other was that the project claimed to become the world’s digital currency.

In terms of its goal, I think existing cryptocurrencies (such as Bitcoin and Ethereum) have been pushed and tried by enthusiasts or communities to go this route.

However, judging from the subsequent practice, on the one hand, this effect is not obvious. On the other hand, it seems that everyone does not care whether cryptocurrencies must be used as a global digital currency-there are already few people in the cryptocurrency ecosystem who mention this goal, and there are also few people who brag about being able to use Bitcoin or Ethereum to pay in XXX places.

I think the reason why this is the case may be due to regulatory reasons and technical reasons.

In terms of regulation, becoming a global currency will actually challenge regulatory agencies in various countries around the world, which will face huge obstacles.

In terms of technology, to become a global currency, I think it is not enough to rely solely on the current blockchain technology. Besides, I think this is not the killer feature of blockchain technology. Its true killer feature is to create a series of new virtual assets that are trusted globally, as well as a globally trusted set of technology-based credit mechanisms and applications. These meanings are far greater than currency.

Therefore, its goal did not attract me deeply.

More importantly, I think that from the perspective of the project’s goal, the founder of this project has a lack of understanding of the social significance and production relations of blockchain technology-or, to put it in plain language, he and many people have the same understanding of blockchain technology: It is regarded as a technology, and wherever it can be used in real life, it is used, ignoring the subversiveness of this technology in terms of social significance.

Later, I paid attention to this project again because of its ambitious activity: Collect irises on a large scale around the world, and use them to prove personal identity, pay cryptocurrency to these people, and claim that the collected irises will be destroyed quickly.

Many people appreciate this ideal, but in my opinion, this way of thinking is a centralized way of thinking from top to bottom. For other categories of projects, I would not mind, but for cryptographic projects, this is what I appreciate the least.

Collecting personal information on a large scale globally requires a large amount of manpower, material resources, and financial resources to be organized and mobilized, and requires a rigorous organization and an efficient operation system.

This organization and mechanism are the driving force and foundation for ensuring the implementation, execution, and success of the project. Individuals in this project are almost passive recipients and those who obey orders.

From this idea, you can see a way of thinking in the founder’s heart: he is pushing the project’s development by using top-level design and a top-down approach.

This way of thinking is very suitable for traditional information technology, such as big data, the Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence, but this way is not suitable for blockchain.

The way of thinking in the encryption ecology, in my opinion, must be the core and essence of bottom-up promotion of the project—mobilizing and motivating the masses.

When Maddie, who was still a student at the University of Helsinki in Finland, saw Bitcoin for the first time on the Internet, he could not suppress his curiosity. When he sent an email to Nakamoto asking how a person who could not program could contribute to this project, Nakamoto’s reply was simple and powerful: download Bitcoin and run it.

In this way, such a simple and independent action brought individuals together into this ecology. This is the most powerful expression of bottom-up promotion of the project.

It should be noted that I am not saying that blockchain projects have no organization or system, but that in the promotion and development of the project, in addition to the organization’s leadership, the fundamental success of the project absolutely cannot be separated from the community’s active mobilization and activities, and the community’s bottom-up feedback and influence on the organization.

In addition, the practice of collecting irises in this project makes me feel uneasy.

This uneasiness mainly comes from two aspects:

First, in my understanding, a good cryptographic project always tries to avoid touching personal identity information as much as possible.

In the Bitcoin white paper, Nakamoto directly regarded the traditional financial institution’s practice of requesting personal identity information as a drawback of violating personal privacy.

For this project, I can understand why it requires real people to participate and avoid witch attacks due to the real-world application. There are many ways to achieve this. Satoshi Nakamoto used the POW mining method to make attackers bear a certain cost and avoid witch attacks to some extent. Now, more advanced zero-knowledge proofs can also be used to prove people’s identities.

All of these methods can avoid directly requesting personal identity information and instead use the most straightforward method of collecting personal information, which is still the most important biological information for individuals, which is difficult for me to accept.

In addition, it is hard for me to believe that the process of collecting iris data can be foolproof in protecting my privacy for such sensitive biological data. It claims that the data will be destroyed—a bunch of Internet giants also claim to strictly protect user privacy, but time and again, these giants have been proven to be untrustworthy.

Even if the project itself really wants to destroy this data, can this idea be executed thoroughly and effectively in different countries, different geographical environments, different ethnic cultures, and different lifestyles around the world?

Even if these are not problems, for such a centralized operation project that is so obvious and still issuing coins, as the project’s coverage and influence become larger and larger and involve more and more people, will regulatory agencies around the world let it go? Especially, how will it deal with supervision from the United States?

Finally, let’s be 100 times more optimistic. If this project really succeeds in the end, the key to its success is probably not because it uses blockchain technology, but because it is an extension of a traditional Internet company, and this success probably has to do with the fact that it has to cooperate with the US government to some extent, otherwise how can it face US regulation?

Thinking of this, and then thinking about Otman’s amiable and close cooperation with members of the US Congress at the recent US congressional hearing, I feel uneasy. This founder’s style is really different from Vitalik’s.

So there seems to be nothing I can appreciate about this project.

Of course, I don’t deny that it may eventually succeed, and perhaps it can really make money, but I still hope to participate in projects with a stronger crypto flavor in the crypto ecosystem.