Who Is Satoshi Nakamoto

On Wednesday February 11, 2009, someone going by the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto made his first known public post since the bitcoin white paper came out a few months earlier. The title of the post was “Bitcoin open source implementation of P2P currency“. These comments were in a small forum called the P2P Foundation.

Satoshi Nakamoto went on the offensive attacking the status quo and the old central banking systems stating:

The root problem with conventional currency is all the trust that’s required to make it work. The central bank must be trusted not to debase the currency, but the history of fiat currencies is full of breaches of that trust. Banks must be trusted to hold our money and transfer it electronically, but they lend it out in waves of credit bubbles with barely a fraction in reserve. We have to trust them with our privacy, trust them not to let identity thieves drain our accounts. Their massive overhead costs make micropayments impossible.

He also provided links to the bitcoin white paper, which demonstrated a novel and decentralized implementation of the idea of “E-currency”. This had been attempted several times before, particularly in the 90s. But then it was largely abandoned and written off a fool’s errand by people in the field.

What followed Satoshi’s first post

Some forum members did take immediate notice and could recognize the potential for blockchain. The first poster replied: “This is the first real innovation in money since the Bank of England started to issue its banknotes.”

Slowly but surely, through different online discussions and improvements of the protocol, the idea would catch on spreading like wildfire. As a result, we saw the creation of different variations of blockchains which lead to an entire ecosystem and market with a capitalization of over 130 billion dollars as of this writing.

Who is Satoshi Nakamoto

But there is still a big mystery around the actual identity of Satoshi Nakamoto. He has remained anonymous and seemed to take many steps to keep his identity private. Even using anonymousspeech.com to register the Bitcoin.org domain name, a website that allows you to pay with cash via mail or pre-paid credit card.

He did not actually disclose any personal details about himself in any of his public posts. But according to his profile on the P2P Foundation’s website, his birthday is April 5th, 1975 and his nationality is Japanese.

Why anonymity?

We can’t know exactly why Satoshi chose to be anonymous. Perhaps he just did not want the attention. Or maybe it was because he had the foresight to see the potential of his invention. It’s quite possible that he understood that this project would attract an extraordinary amount of attention, including negative attention from governments, central banks, and other parties who might have a vested interest in keeping the status quo. Governments could very well see him as a revolutionist or an anarchist, even if in reality he was just a humble programmer with an idea.

The other aspect is just security from criminals. In the past few years, individuals who have very public connections to cryptocurrency have been extorted. Not just electronically through hacking, but even through kidnapping. In December 2017 Pavel Lerner, a director at the cryptocurrency exchange EXMO, was seen being forced into a black Mercedes by hooded men while leaving the exchanges Kiev office. Pavel would reappear 3 days later after paying a one million dollar ransom in bitcoin. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the first time this had happened.

Why cryptocurrency attracts criminals

The ease of use and the fact that cryptocurrency wallet keys can be stored on virtually any computer means that it is an attractive target for criminals. Because gaining physical access to someone who has a lot of crypto on a USB or hard drive is low hanging fruit if you are willing to suspend any sense of morality or legality.

Given Satoshis estimated net worth of ₿980,000 or $4,000,000,000 USD (as of this writing), it’s quite understandable why he would be a bit shy of the spotlight. Being the creator of a paradigm-shifting technology and possibility one of the most important financial innovations ever would certainly change his life as a public figure. One of the early bitcoin developers even referred to him as paranoid in their email correspondence while developing the first implementations of the software.

But things are not so simple. Some even believe that Satoshi may be a consortium of people. Perhaps it was a group of people like Hal Finney, Nick Szabo, and Gavin Andresen. But some detractors of this hypothesis like to point out that Satoshi’s writing is fairly consistent and when applying Occam’s Razor to the theory, a smaller group or single person seems more probable.

Cryptocurrency and blockchain communities have grown significantly in the last few years. So have the ideas as to the true identity of blockchain’s inventor. Some of them are fun and wild, so we will start by examining the most unlikely identities.


Satoshi T-850

Who Is Satoshi Nakamoto

Definitely, the wildest idea circulating in the space is that Satoshi Nakamoto is an artificial intelligence.

This theory also entails the AI secretly using the hashing power from proof of work miners as a way to increase its computing power. Kind of like the Golem network on Ethereum, which allows users to put their CPU/GPU cycles up for rent to earn tokens.

The father of computers and AI, Alan Turing, proposed the idea that there was fundamentally no difference in the computational ability of a human brain and a machine. To him, the human brain is more or less a biological computer. It can do all the same mathematical operations and algorithms as a machine could. The only real difference and limiting factor being computing time and memory space. Any problem that can be solved by a human could be solved by a Turing machine, according to him.

But of course, there is a problem with this idea of a sci-fi Satoshi, currently, computers do not have nearly enough power to completely simulate a human brain. In 2011 scientific american estimated that even a cats brain is millions of times quicker than an Ipad.

Why AI isn’t the answer

A sufficiently powerful computer could simulate every particle and atom in a human brain. Therefore it could accurately simulate outputs from that brain like new ideas and perfect language skills. Current estimates, however, suggest this concept is at least decades away.

To fix this problem, people speculated that not only could he be an AI, but he could also be a time traveler. Being from the future would help explain how the AI could be so far advanced beyond our current technology. If this is who Satoshi is, he is a bit of a jerk for not showing up to Stephan Hawking’s Champagne party when he was explicitly invited.

Elon Musk

Who Is Satoshi Nakamoto

This theory has a lot more credibility. That’s because it started when an intern at Musk’s SpaceX suggested that he was “probably Satoshi” in a blog post.

One of Musks first big successes, Paypal, was trying to create an e-currency similar to bitcoin. They even had “Paypal The New World Currency” printed on T-shirts and other memorabilia. So it’s understandable that there is speculation that Musk created it given his history in FinTech.

Here are some of the reasons listed in the blog post as to why it could be Musk

  1. Nakamoto had an understanding of economics and cryptography and so does Musk.
  2. Most of bitcoin’s source code was written in C++. Musk insisted that C++ be used at SpaceX and Paypal.
  3. Musk’s technical reasoning and usage of language is similar to that of Nakamoto. For instance, the usage of “bloody hard.”
  4. Musk joked about being Satoshi in a tweet in 2014, which came a week after Satoshi’s last forum post which read “I am not Dorian Nakamoto”.

These possible connections between Satoshi and Musk are a bit spurious. Yet some believe that Musk is a modern Ben Franklin and that he fits this bill quite well. But he also is incredibly busy with several businesses and a family. These reasons cast doubts as to whether he is the inventor of blockchain.

Musk would later deny being Satoshi in a direct response to a SpaceX intern’s article.

Dorian Nakamoto

Who Is Satoshi Nakamoto

In March, 2014, there was an article in Newsweek titled, “The Face Behind Bitcoin”. It asserted that a Japanese American man living in California, whose name was Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto, was in fact the real Satoshi.

Initially, there were some interesting facts about Dorian that made him a good candidate. Aside from the name, Dorian was a physicist and systems engineer.

Allegedly after getting laid off, he had turned to a more libertarian political worldview. This is something that has always been deeply entrenched in the philosophy of bitcoin and in Satoshi’s writing.

The journalist who wrote the Newsweek article went to his Dorian’s home and confronted him about his “involvement” in Bitcoin. Dorian suspiciously replied,  “I am no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it… It’s been turned over to other people. They are in charge of it now. I no longer have any connection.”

This caused quite a media buzz with journalists. They began constantly following him around and camping outside his home hoping to get an interview. Eventually, after getting tired of constant media attention, Dorian agreed to do an interview with whoever would give him a free lunch.

Dorian’s free lunch

When Dorian finally got his free lunch, he clarified the statement he had given earlier about Bitcoin. He told the journalist that he thought the questions were related to classified projects he had done for military contractors. Dorian had never heard of bitcoin until the emails from the Newsweek journalist hit his inbox. He completely denied any involvement.

Later, Satoshi’s original account on the P2P Foundation’s forum would make its last post to date. It read, “I am not Dorian Nakamoto,” although some believe that it wasn’t the real Nakamoto and that the account was hacked.

Craig Wright

The Australian computer scientist and entrepreneur Craig Wright is perhaps one of the more infamous characters in the blockchain world. That’s likely due to his abrasive and bombastic personality plus questionable claims about being Satoshi or at least the principal actor in a consortium of people who worked on bitcoin and collectively were “Satoshi.

Gizmodo alleged in 2015 that they had obtained evidence from Wright’s hacked email. They said that proved he was Satoshi. Wright took down his Twitter account the same day. Wired magazine would also publish an article making the same claims. Just hours later, more than 10 police officers showed up to Wright’s home along with the Australian Taxation Office. The Australian Federal Police denied that it had anything to do with Wright’s recent claims about being Satoshi Nakamoto.

Deciphering Satoshi’s language

The language that Satoshi used is consistent with someone who spoke English as a first language. Thus, it’s speculated to have been someone from a commonwealth nation. So there is some plausibility to the idea of Craig Wright being Satoshi.

Even some of the early bitcoin developers like Gavin Andresen were convinced that Wright was Satoshi. Because he had signed messages using keys created during some of the earliest blocks in the Bitcoin Blockchain. The Economist even released articles claiming that they had verified publically that Wright had Satoshi’s keys by signing a bitcoin transaction

But it was not so easy to convince the others. They quickly pointed out that all Wright had done was take a publicly published signature by Satoshi to the blockchain from years earlier and create a new transaction with that signature.

There were also claims that he had properly verified his ownership under closed doors with Gavin Andresen. But this demonstration was never replicated publically. To date, Craig Wright has not provided any further evidence or demonstrations that he is Satoshi.

Shinichi Mochizuki

Who Is Satoshi Nakamoto

An American academic Ted Nelson claims that the Japanese mathematician Shinichi Mochizuki is probably Nakamoto. Nelson claims that Mochizuki’s math prowess is just one of the many things that makes him a good Nakamoto.

The fact that Nakamoto was able to write a proper academic paper, i.e. the whitepaper, lead many people to believe that he had at least some experience in academia. With that fact in mind, Mochizuki also has a history of posting his academic work directly to the internet rather than through the traditional route of academic journals.

Even though Mochizuki is Japanese and currently lives in Japan, having grown up and studied in the U.S. he speaks perfect English. Much like Nakamoto.

Some of Mochizuk’is friends and other experts are doubtful. This is mainly because despite his mathematical knowledge he doesn’t have any specific cryptography or coding experience. Nor has he given any indication that he has been involved with or interested in cypherpunk communities.

Nick Szabo

Who Is Satoshi Nakamoto

In 1998, Mr.Szabo designed a decentralized currency called “bit gold” which would implement an algorithm very closely related in design to proof of work. Bit gold is thought to be one of the early inspirations for bitcoin. But it never launched into the wild as an actual application.

Fifteen years later, a blogger used something called “stylometric analysis” to compare Szabos writing style to Nakamoto’s in the white paper. According to the blog post, the writing style was a good match. but this came with the caveat that the cryptography community would tend to use similar terms and wording as many members of small niche online communities do. On top of that, Szabos earlier work was likely a direct inspiration for bitcoin. It may be that Szabo’s writing style simply influenced Nakamoto’s.

Szabo had blog posts from 2005 with bit gold mentioned. But these would later be post-dated to after the publication of the bitcoin white paper, some suggesting it was an attempt on Szabos part to make it appear as if bit gold came after Bitcoin. Of course, like most other people heavily speculated to be Nakamoto, Szabo denies involvement.

Hal Finney

Who Is Satoshi Nakamoto

Perhaps one of the most likely candidates for Satoshi Nakamoto, or at least one of the people involved in the potential consortium, is the late Hal Finney. He began his a career in video game development but later moved on to work in the security field.

In the early 90’s Finney was active in cypherpunk communities. HE and even ran a competition to successfully break an encryption used by the early internet browser Netscape..

A few years before the publication of bitcoin’s white paper, Finney would introduce one of the only proof of work systems that was ever fully implemented pre-bitcoin. He was also heavily inspired by the concept of David Chaums E-cash, which was also one of the major influences for bitcoin.

Finney received first ever bitcoin transaction

As the first person to receive a bitcoin transaction, Finney was also first to work on the bitcoin core software, other than Satoshi Nakamoto himself. All these similarities between Finney and Nakamoto ranging from technical to political interests have lead to lots of speculation that the two characters are one and the same.

Many other people like Nick Szabo are good candidates for being the real Nakamoto. But there was one connection that caused a lot of eyebrows to raise. It was that Hal Finney lived just blocks away from Dorian Nakamoto. Some thought this suggested that he may have used his name as inspiration for the Satoshi pseudonym.

A writing analysis

A Forbes journalist hired a writing analysis firm to compare Finney’s writing with Nakamoto’s. They found that he had been a very close match. Further, they speculated that Finney may have been a ghostwriter for Nakamoto, if not the bitcoin creator himself.

However, the Forbes journalist would later state that he believed Finney’s denial was honest. This was after meeting him in person and seeing lengthy emails between Finney and Nakamoto.

Nakamoto or not, Finney was an integral part in the successful formation of bitcoin. Unfortunately, Hal Finney passed away in August 2014 from ALS.

There’s one final connection that still has some believing Finney is the bitcoin inventor. It’s that Nakamoto submitted his last post on the p2p Foundation website just months before Finney passed away .

Conclusion

We may never know who Satoshi Nakamoto really was. Clearly, he took many steps to keep his identity anonymous. He did a good job of that because he has to be hacked or doxed.

Maybe having an anonymous creator is a good thing. It only makes the bitcoin story that much more fascinating, adding a special mythos to everything.

Everyone loves a good mystery.

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