Theories about Satoshi's Identity

One of the most staggering facts about Bitcoin’s history is that no one knows who its pseudonymous creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, really is. During the first two years after his seminal white paper, he continued to engage with the cypherpunk community. In December 2010, he went silent. Given that he likely owns over one million Bitcoin, it is that much more tantalizing to wonder what he could possibly be doing these days–if he is even still alive!

Some argue that Satoshi’s disappearance and anonymity aid the growth of Bitcoin. After all, the community would be much more likely to behave in a centralized fashion if the creator ushered edicts from on-high. And the fact that no one knows his identity means that Bitcoin cannot be tied to Satoshi’s personal baggage, whatever that may be.

Although no one knows who Satoshi really is, there are some candidates that people have floated.

In 2014, Newsweek claimed that Dorian Nakamoto was the great Satoshi. They noted many parallels between the two. For example, both were purportedly libertarian, and both were Japanese. The article also claimed that Dorian said that he was “no longer” working on Bitcoin. However, Dorian said that that quote was due to a misinterpretation of the question.

While most of those who have been accused of being Satoshi have denied it, Craig Wright is a notable exception. Wired Magazine published a profile on Wright in 2015, saying that it held convincing evidence that Wright was indeed Satoshi. The magazine pointed to references to “cryptocurrency” on Wright’s blog shortly before the publication of Satoshi’s white paper. Also, leaked transcripts of his discussions include an enticing quote:

“I did my best to try and hide the fact that I’ve been running Bitcoin since 2009. By the end of this, I think half the world is going to bloody know.”

  Upon further inspection, Wired discovered inconsistencies with Wright’s tales. His reputation soon fell apart.

Nick Szabo created the concept of smart contracts in 1996 and is considered the founding father of Bit Gold, one of Bitcoin’s predecessors. Writer Dominic Frisby argued that Szabo is Satoshi in his book, Bitcoin: The Future of Money? Frisby demonstrated that the writing styles of the two were quite similar, and that both people admired economist Carl Menger. Szabo has denied any involvement with the creation of Bitcoin. Furthermore, email evidence suggests that Satoshi was unfamiliar with Bit Gold until someone told him about it. Assuming Satoshi’s ignorance was honest, this rules out Szabo as the true Satoshi. Finally, commentary from Szabo and Satoshi reveals that they had disparate views on the role of gold in our monetary system. 

Perhaps we will never know Satoshi’s true identity, and perhaps that is for the best. Bitcoin offers humanity the promise of a decentralized revolution. It only stands to reason that Bitcoin has no commander.

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