A shiny, silver orb glints at you outside a metro station in downtown Santiago. What do you do? Form a line, apparently.
According to Worldcoin, more than 200,000 Chileans have had their eyeballs scanned by its controversial Orbs. For privacy buffs, this is the next step in the inevitable dystopian future that awaits. But for others, it’s just a bit of free money.
Carlos Santibañez, a 29-year-old Chilean from a small southern town called Llanquihue, told Decrypt he had his eyeballs scanned in September 2022 mostly out of curiosity. At the time, the WLD token had no monetary value. Since then, however, he has raked in more than $150 dollars and continues to receive WLD tokens.
He pointed out something often overlooked by Worldcoin critics. “After a bit of reading, I found that their data collection is less invasive than what other companies keep,” he said. “This made me think: ‘Well, at least I’m making something off this information.’”
Santibañez also pointed to the big name investors backing Worldcoin as a guarantor in the project’s direction. “Seeing that Worldcoin was such a big project,” he said, “ I didn’t want to be left out.”
At the time of writing, having your eyeballs scanned earns you 25 WLD tokens, worth roughly $42, according to Coingecko.
That’s a fair chunk of change in some countries, such as Chile. The longest nation in the world has a minimum wage of $512 dollars (or $460,000 Chilean pesos). Receiving 8 of their monthly wage simply for scanning their eyeballs might be too good to pass up.
Worldcoin has seen success in emerging economies that have numbers similar to Chile. According to the company, Argentina, a country ravaged by high inflation rates, saw a day in August with one sign up every nine seconds.
Across the Atlantic in Africa, Kenya also witnessed astoundingly long lines, with local media reporting more than 350,000 registrations. Those figures are not entirely surprising, in a country where the minimum wage barely passes $100 dollars per month.
Kenyan authorities have since banned Worldcoin’s operations, citing privacy concerns.
Back in Chile, others are simply signing up for the novelty.
A 25-year-old Chilean student, Javier Santelices, explained to Decrypt that despite leaning crypto-skeptic, he passed a stand and decided to try it out. “I’ve never really understood crypto,” he said. “They were giving money away, so why not?”
He agrees with Santibañez regarding people already getting most of their data collected surreptitiously by other companies. “This is no different from what everyone else does on the internet,” he said.
The controversial Worldcoin project has not seen widespread regulatory pushback in Chile, despite the whopping numbers the company claims have already registered. The nation has become known for its economic freedom and burgeoning tech scene. It also stands at the forefront of AI in the region, placing first in the Latin American Artificial Intelligence Index (or ILIA, as it’s called in Spanish).
Having 1 of the population sign up for Worldcoin has left some startled, however.
“I find it curious that the public judges the crypto world as a scam, only to later stand in long lines for a bit of ‘free money’,” Francisco Díaz, a Chilean anthropologist who studies DAOs, told Decrypt.
Díaz has been actively participating in talentDAO, a research collective into how these types of organizations work for the better half of two years. He told Decrypt about how DAOs have evolved, leaving behind the “old formula” of issuing a governance token without even considering its necessity.
In reference to his own country, Díaz thinks the Worldcoin success is “probably due to the economic incentive.” And considering the country’s minimum wage, he concluded: “It’s not a small amount of money.”