After news broke of Sam Altman’s ouster from OpenAI, the cryptocurrency associated with his eyeball-grabbing venture, Worldcoin, seesawed with each twist and turn of the story.
On Friday, at approximately, 3 p.m. ET, the board of OpenAI, creator of ChatGPT and one of the tech industry’s buzziest companies, fired Sam Altman, a Silicon Valley rock star, because he was “not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities,” it said in a blog post.
Subsequently, the price of the cryptocurrency for Worldcoin, a project founded by Altman that hopes to prevent AI dystopia through scanning humanity’s irises, dropped almost 10%, from about $2.04 to a low of $1.84, according to data from CoinGecko. However, just as quickly as it dropped, it shot back up to a high of $2.54 on Sunday, an almost 40% price increase as the OpenAI board considered reinstating Altman amid widespread outcry from company staff.
Now, as of Monday morning, the token dropped again, to $2.29, following the decision of the OpenAI board to not reinstate Altman and instead replace him with Emmett Shear, the former CEO of live-streaming giant Twitch. Microsoft has since announced that Altman and other OpenAI defectors will be joining the company to “to lead a new advanced AI research team.”
While it’s unclear why the OpenAI board said Altman was “not consistently candid,” theories abound over why the former CEO was removed, including his participation in a slew of side hustles—most notably Worldcoin, one of his most grandiose projects and one that’s already fallen under the scrutiny of regulators.
Developed by the company Tools for Humanity, Worldcoin originally was founded to combat the problem that OpenAI is arguably creating: As AI grows more advanced, more people will lose jobs. Therefore, Worldcoin proponents argue, a version of universal basic income—in this case, cryptocurrency—is needed to help support people as robots come to dominate the labor force. And how do humans prove they’re human to ensure said funds are correctly distributed only to living beings? Through an eye-scanning silver orb, of course.
Since its founding, however, Worldcoin has played down its ambitions for UBI and instead focused on how its tech can help us distinguish humans from the scourge of bots that AI will inevitably bring to the internet. While seemingly pure science fiction, Tools for Humanity has convinced enough investors of Worldcoin’s viability, netting $115 million in its most recent funding round.
In July, Worldcoin’s cryptocurrency officially went live, and regulators have since begun sniffing around the project. In August, German authorities were reportedly investigating Worldcoin, and in October, a Kenyan parliamentary panel argued that Worldcoin should be shut down.