The article was originally published at EverydayBitcoin.org. Author Ben Saylor has joined our growing list of contributors and we will be running some of his older posts here. This two part blog is very timely with the recent news of Satoshi’s old email account being hacked.
In 2008, someone using the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto” published a paper proposing a new kind of digital currency that uses cryptography for security and a public ledger to eliminate the need for a central authority to prevent fraud. He, she, or they (we’ll say “he” to respect Satoshi’s choice of a male name) were proposing a revolutionary concept that had never been tried before. In January of 2009, Satoshi launched the Bitcoin network and we are now 5 years in. Needless to say, his identity has become the subject of wild speculation. I can think of 3 reasons why Satoshi’s identity might be of interest.
I will admit, it is super fascinating that a system that has the potential to transform finance in at least some areas of the world was created by a mystery man/woman/group. There is bound to be some benevolent speculation about who Satoshi is. It would be interesting to learn about his background, motivation, and life since the launch of Bitcoin.
Whether he is the target of more articles like Newsweek’s or of hackers who believe he has a lot of bitcoins ripe for the stealing, Satoshi would be a big target if his identity were public. We already know from the Dorian Nakamoto blunder that even a relatively small amount of speculation and media hounding can profoundly damage the victim’s life. If we were somehow able to confirm Satoshi’s real identity, I would do everything I could to draw attention away from him and give him privacy. But that probably won’t happen, because it seems like he’s smart.
It’s no secret that the invention of Bitcoin threatens the powers that be. Even if Bitcoin only achieved limited adoption around the world, its impact on society would be profound. Some of the people who have the most to lose are the people with the money (bankers) and the people with the guns (politicians, who tend to be bought by the people with the money). The Bitcoin network paves the way for the decentralization of currency, financial innovation, global economic activity, contracts, smart property, and a thousand other things that creative people will think of in the coming years. Needless to say, bankers/politicians have a vested interest in making sure Bitcoin’s impact is contained. Imagine the fire that would rain down from these powerful people if Satoshi were identified. Even Russia couldn’t save him! (Bitcoin threatens not only the American banking/political system, but that of the whole world).
- Satoshi said in 2009 that he was a 37 year-old Japanese male
- His paper is in English
- He used British formatting
- He uses two spaces after a period
- There are occasional American spellings (either attempts to mask identity, or evidence of group of multinational individuals)
- The code writing was elegant in some ways and inelegant in others (so I’m told)
- His statements in blog posts imply political motivation
I gave these clues to a friend, who produced the sketch at the top of this post. We may be getting closer…
The most important thing to remember when considering the identity of Satoshi is that it doesn’t matter. Bitcoin is open source, transparent, and not a pyramid scheme with Satoshi at the top waiting to press a button to steal everyone’s bitcoins… The invention of a blockchain-based cryptocurrency is what really matters. The sooner we treat the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto as an amusing side note instead of a witch (or wizard) hunt, and start focusing on implementing a financial system that can 1) take away power from people who would presume they have the right to rule over others and 2) improve the lives of billions of people, the better.