Welcome back to the Hedgehog newsletter! Hedgehog is your handy-dandy one-stop-shop crypto portfolio manager.

And this newsletter is your handy-dandy rundown of some thought-provoking and/or eyebrow-raising events from the past week. Don't miss the giveaway at the end.

Eyes on the Prize

Crypto has one foot in tech and one foot in finance. Right now tech is fixated on AI, and finance is focused on banking and interest rates. Let's zag while everybody else zigs, and talk about ORBS 🔮

Remember Worldcoin, from a couple years back, the biometric crypto UBI project? Here's a basic overview:

  • Step 1: Scan people's eyeballs using a device called the Orb. The purpose is to prove unique personhood (AKA sybil resistance) based on each individual's one-of-a-kind iris.
  • Step 2: Every proven eyeball owner gets some Worldcoin, "the first token to be globally and freely distributed to people, for both utility and future governance, just for being a unique individual."
  • Step 3: Profit??

Worldcoin made a bit of a splash when it was first announced in 2021, mainly because the branding sounds like something a supervillain would dream up. (To be fair, probably a supervillain from Despicable Me.) And people were concerned about the privacy implications of having their irises scanned.

Beyond the unsettling vibe, the involvement of Sam Altman drew attention. Altman is the former leader of startup accelerator Y Combinator (of which Hedgehog is an alumnus) and now CEO of OpenAI, the organization that created ChatGPT and its precursors. ChatGPT is the AI that tech is obsessing over right now — with good reason, it's very impressive!

A recent launch brought Worldcoin back to the headlines:

World ID is a new privacy-first decentralized identity protocol. It enables seamless sign in to websites, mobile apps and crypto dapps, while proving you're a unique and real person without sharing personal data like names, emails, etc.

World ID supports multiple types of personhood verifications. At launch, this includes phone number verification for easy access to anyone with a smartphone and Orb biometric verification for extreme accuracy.

TechCrunch has a more detailed Orb-splanation:

To use the service, users must download its app, then have their iris scanned using a silver, melon-sized orb that houses a custom optical system. Once the scan is complete, the individual is added to a database of verified humans, and Worldcoin creates a unique cryptographic "hash" or equation that's tied to that real person. The scan isn't saved, but the hash can be used in the future to prove the person's identity anonymously through the app, which includes a private key that links to a shareable public key. Because the system is designed to verify that a person is actually a unique individual, if the person wants to accept a payment or fund a specific project, the app generates a "zero-knowledge proof" — or mathematical equation — that allows the individual to provide only the necessary amount of information to a third party.

IEEE Spectrum goes a little deeper into the cryptography, plus the team's efforts to evangelize the project globally. "So far, Worldcoin has signed up more than 700,000 users in some 25 countries, including Chile, France, and Kenya." However, "the coin has yet to be released — those who sign up get an IOU, not actual cryptocurrency — and the company has released few details on how it will work."

Meanwhile, the makers of Worldcoin are trying to address the skepticism:

"This is a decentralized and privacy-first protocol," Tiago Sada, Head of Product, Engineering and Design at Tools For Humanity, told The Block in an interview. "What that means is that just like people can have self-custodial wallets, with this, people can have self-custodial IDs, where any information is on-device, and how you use it is through zero-knowledge-proofs to make attestations about yourself." […]

"There's also a lot of misconceptions out there," he said. "A lot of people don't know that your biometric data gets destroyed at the Orb." That is, unless you opt-in to having your biometric data stored, which, though not incentivized by Worldcoin, helps improve the protocol.

Also according to The Block, Worldcoin is ready to ramp up Orb production, with a manufacturing partnership that can accommodate 400 Orbs per month.

What to make of all this? I said we weren't discussing AI today, but I guess it's inescapable: Now that machines are smart enough to seem human, perhaps provable humanity is all the more valuable. Maybe, despite the creepy names, Worldcoin is onto something?

"I want to be clear: this is pure speculation. We've no specific plans for any of this," Sam Altman told Wired in 2021. "But you could imagine doing something like the Worldcoin distribution to identify everybody on Earth, and then give them a UBI [created by] AGI's profits." AGI = artificial general intelligence.

Tldr: AI has come a long way, but there's one thing it can't fake yet — eyeballs 👀

Quick Hits

Another day, another dollar, another DeFi hack. The frontier is a fun but dangerous playground.

Did you know you can buy normal things with cryptocurrency?! In some places, that's the killer feature.

The cryptoverse and TradFi continue to intertwine.

Ohoho, I wonder if this will end up shipping? If you use Edge, keep an eye out.

TIL there is a golf DAO. Truly we live in the future.


Give me your eyes. Wait, no, it's the other way around — I give you something. Not eyes, though. Reply to this email with your answer for a chance to snag some sweet Hedgehog swag.

Question of the week: Have you tried ChatGPT, Stable Diffusion, or any other AI tools that emerged this year? If so, what did you think? If not, any particular reason why you steered clear?

In closing… may the Orb be with you 👁️🔮👁️

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