The Intersection of Biometric Proof of Personhood and the Art of Asking Good Questions

Alessio Frateily

Hatched by Alessio Frateily

Sep 02, 2023

4 min read


The Intersection of Biometric Proof of Personhood and the Art of Asking Good Questions


As technology continues to advance, the concept of biometric proof of personhood has gained significant attention. This article explores the implications of such a system, with a particular focus on Worldcoin, and delves into the importance of asking good questions to discover the truth. Both topics may seem unrelated, but as we will uncover, there are common threads that connect them.

Biometric Proof of Personhood:

Biometric proof of personhood, also known as the "unique-human problem," seeks to establish a real-world identity for individuals in a digital landscape. Worldcoin, co-founded by Sam Altman, is at the forefront of this movement. By relying on highly sophisticated biometrics, such as iris scans, Worldcoin aims to create a foolproof system that ensures each registered account is controlled by a unique human. This innovation has significant implications for not only verifying identities but also for enabling secure transactions and combating bot-driven activities.

The Challenge of Technological Advancement:

While biometric proof of personhood promises enhanced security and authenticity, it also raises concerns about job displacement and the blurred lines between humans and bots. As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to progress, it is essential to address these challenges. One potential solution lies in the creation of a robust proof-of-personhood system that allows individuals to prove their humanity while also embracing the advancements AI brings. Additionally, the implementation of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) could help mitigate the impact of job loss and ensure a fair distribution of wealth.

The Role of Good Questions:

In parallel to the development of biometric proof of personhood, the art of asking good questions plays a crucial role in discovering the truth. The concept of the "Gretchenfrage," originating from Goethe's play Faust, exemplifies the power of a well-crafted question. Good questions have the ability to pierce through surface-level information and elicit genuine responses that delve into the core of an issue. They are the intellectual instruments available to all, regardless of status or education.

Finding Common Ground:

While biometric proof of personhood and the art of asking good questions may seem unrelated, they share common goals. Both endeavors aim to create open and democratic mechanisms that avoid centralized control and favor the participation of all individuals. In the realm of decentralized governance, it is vital to develop solutions that guarantee security without discriminating against users or concentrating power in the hands of the wealthiest. Existing solutions often rely on opaque AI algorithms or centralized identity verification, known as "KYC," which present their own challenges.

Types of Proof of Personhood:

Two main forms of proof of personhood have emerged: social-graph-based and biometric. Social-graph-based proof relies on vouching, where verified humans verify the authenticity of others. In contrast, biometric proof involves verifying physical or behavioral traits that distinguish humans from bots. Many projects, including Proof of Humanity, BrightID, Idena, and Circles, incorporate elements of both techniques to ensure reliable proof of personhood.

The Worldcoin Approach:

Worldcoin stands out by utilizing highly sophisticated biometrics through its specialized hardware called "the Orb." Users generate a private and public key through their Worldcoin app and visit an Orb in person. The Orb scans the user's iris, ensuring uniqueness and verifying their status as a real human. By storing only hashed iris scans, Worldcoin prioritizes privacy and aims to transition to a decentralized on-chain system in the future. World ID holders can prove their uniqueness without revealing personal information, even if their iris is rescanned.

The Risks and Considerations:

While biometric proof of personhood holds immense potential, there are inherent risks and considerations that must be addressed. Privacy concerns arise from the registry of iris scans, and accessibility may be limited unless Orbs become widely available. Centralization poses a risk as hardware devices like the Orb must be trusted, and security vulnerabilities exist, such as hacking or coercion. Additionally, the possibility of creating "fake people" that pass the iris scan further emphasizes the need for robust safeguards.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Embrace the potential of biometric proof of personhood while advocating for privacy protection. Push for decentralized systems that prioritize user control over personal data.
  • 2. Promote inclusivity and accessibility by ensuring the widespread availability of biometric scanning devices and exploring alternative methods to verify personhood in areas lacking infrastructure.
  • 3. Foster open dialogue and collaboration between technology developers, policymakers, and society as a whole to address the ethical implications of biometric systems and ensure their responsible implementation.


Biometric proof of personhood and the art of asking good questions may initially appear disparate, but they share a common goal of promoting transparency, inclusivity, and open participation. As we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of technology, it is essential to embrace innovations while upholding the values of privacy, security, and fairness. By utilizing biometrics responsibly and asking thoughtful questions, we can create a future that harnesses the potential of AI while protecting the rights and identities of individuals.

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