Proof of personhood:
What it is and why it’s needed
- The rapid advancement of artificial intelligence has accelerated the need to differentiate between human- and AI-generated content online
- Proof of personhood addresses two of the key considerations presented by the Age of AI: (1) protecting against sybil attacks and (2) minimizing the spread of AI-generated misinformation
- World ID, an open and permissionless identity protocol, acts as a global digital passport and can be used anonymously to prove uniqueness and humanness as well as to selectively disclose credentials issued by other parties
- Worldcoin has published in-depth resources to provide more details about proof of personhood and World ID
Artificial intelligence is rapidly advancing. As it does, the ability to differentiate between human- and AI-generated content online is going from a novel idea to a necessity.
That’s where proof of personhood comes in.
In a nutshell, proof of personhood (PoP) is a mechanism that establishes an individual’s humanness and uniqueness. It can be thought of as the first and most fundamental building block in establishing digital identity.
The Worldcoin project is initiating World ID, an open and permissionless identity protocol that can be used anonymously to prove uniqueness and humanness as well as to selectively disclose credentials issued by other parties. More on that below, but first let’s look at the challenges that PoP addresses.
Why is proof of personhood needed?
Advanced AI can be an empowering tool, but like all emerging technologies, it introduces new and complex considerations. Two of these are:
- Limiting the number of accounts each individual can create to protect against online attacks from multiple pseudonymous identities generated by a single attacker (aka sybil attacks)
- Preventing the dissemination of realistic looking/sounding AI-generated content intended to deceive or spread disinformation at scale
Proof of personhood addresses both of these.
First, PoP provides natural rate limiting through account authentication. This essentially eliminates sybil attacks at any notable scale. Second, it allows for the filtration of content or accounts that have been either confirmed or not confirmed as human, helping address the viral spread of AI-generated disinformation.
PoP should not be seen as a panacea, but instead as a necessary first step in establishing a global network of genuine, unique human identities. If achieved on a large enough scale, the potential social benefits are considerable.
What's possible with a global network of genuine, unique human identities?— Worldcoin (@worldcoin) April 5, 2023
✅ Advanced spam filters
✅ Digital collective governance
✅ Equitable distribution of scarce resources
✅ Digital ID theft prevention via authentication
✅ Redistribution of wealth created by AI systems
How can Worldcoin help establish proof of personhood?
Worldcoin recently introduced a privacy-first, decentralized and permissionless identity protocol, known as World ID, to help establish PoP on a global scale.
In order to build World ID, the teams developing the Worldcoin project first established a proof of personhood mechanism based on a custom biometric imaging device known as the Orb. Once a person has verified their humanness at an Orb, they can receive a unique PoP credential on a compatible digital wallet. The first of these is the World App, built by Tools for Humanity, however more will become available as the protocol continues to decentralize.
World ID can be thought of as a global digital passport or identity wallet that lives locally on its holder’s phone and can be used anonymously thanks to zero-knowledge proofs to prove that they are a real and unique person.
As the World ID protocol is developed further by the community, it will support any verified credential (at launch, supported verifications include phone number verification for easy access to anyone with a smartphone and Orb iris biometric verification for extreme accuracy).
Additional resources for understanding proof of personhood
The following blog posts provide more details on PoP, as well as the privacy, decentralization and hardware considerations surrounding it:
- Humanness in the Age of AI
- Why irises beat faces and fingerprints for proving personhood
- A primer on decentralization at Worldcoin
- Privacy at Worldcoin: A Technical Deep Dive - Part I
- Understanding the Orb and why Worldcoin uses biometrics
- Opening the Orb: A look inside Worldcoin’s biometric imaging device
You can also stay up to date on all of the latest Worldcoin announcements, events and information by signing up for the blog newsletter at the bottom of this page or following along on Twitter, Discord and Telegram.