Who is Satoshi Nakamoto?
The invention of a decentralised financial service called Bitcoin revolutionised the way we perceive money and traditional financial systems. Investors worldwide, including world-renowned institutions, have started to look for an alternative where your financial resources belong exclusively to you, and no central authority intervention is needed for their use and transfer.
In 2008, the anonymous founder of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, came up with the invention of a decentralised money system. In his paper „Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System„, he explains the methods of using a peer-to-peer (P2P) network to create what has been described as a system for electronic transactions without relying on trust.
However, who was really acting under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto remains unknown. Satoshi undeniably remains the most enigmatic figure in the history of cryptocurrencies. It has been over 13 years since the publication of his Bitcoin document, and we still don’t even know whether it’s just one person or a group of people that developed Bitcoin. Many experts agree that it’s highly improbable for a single person to create such sophisticated and thought-out technology in such a short period.
The History of Nakamoto
Satoshi Nakamoto was communicating with the first programmers involved electronically only. He was most active from 2008 to 2010 when he published hundreds of papers and posts on the BitcoinTalk, a forum he created.
Along with other developers, Nakamoto worked to improve the bitcoin software until the mid-2010s. He then handed over control of the source code repository to Gavin Andersen, one of the first members of the close Bitcoin community.
However, by the end of 2010, Satoshi went utterly silent. On 12 December 2010, Satoshi posted his last message on the bitcoin forum. He informed developers that there is still much to do to ensure that the bitcoin software is immune to DoS attacks (Denial-of-Service attacks). Satoshi mysteriously disappeared immediately after the message and hasn’t logged into his profile since. On 26 April 2011, Nakamoto decided to leave the evolving crypto community for good. On this day, Satoshi wrote to one bitcoin developer an email explaining that he has „moved on to other projects“ and reassured him that the future of Bitcoin is in good hands. Since then, Satoshi had vanished into thin air.
Although Satoshi claimed to be 34 years old at the time and from Japan, this information is impossible to confirm or refute. However, Satoshi communicated in perfect English without a single Japanese word and often used British dialect and slang words which slightly contradicts his claims.
Although Satoshi Nakamoto’s identity has yet to be attributed to any person, it is estimated that Nakomoto owns one million bitcoin in the current market value of $38 billion. Since the maximum amount in circulation is fixed at 21 million, Satoshi possesses 5% of all bitcoins. However, these bitcoins haven’t moved from their addresses in years, and it’s uncertain if they ever will.
Who might be Nakamoto?
For years, media all over the world have been trying to catch any virtual trace that Nakamoto might have left behind in his posts and figure out who the real founder of Bitcoin is. Although there are several candidates, each has denied it, and Nakamoto’s identity remains a mystery.
Genius mathematician Shinichi Mochizuki, who moved from Japan to the US at the age of five and graduated from the Philips Exeter Academy at the age of 16, was one of the first mathematicians identified as Satoshi Nakamoto.
The claim that Mochizuki is Satoshi Nakamoto came from Theodor Holm Nelson, an American sociologist, philosopher, and pioneer in information technology who was the first to formulate and coin the term hypertext.
In his video, Nelson explains that Mochizuki has demonstrated a level of intelligence and knowledge too similar to that of the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin. Furthermore, he pointed out that just like Nakamoto, who introduced the world to Bitcoin and then disappeared, Mochizuki has done something similar in the past.
In 2012, Mochizuki solved one of the greatest mathematical problems known as the ABC Conjecture, which deals with the nature of prime numbers. After examining the solution, many mathematical experts realised that they didn’t understand it. Mochizuki, however, didn’t bother to explain his solution to anybody. Usually, mathematicians discuss their findings with their colleagues, but Mochizuki simply left. He didn’t even submit his work to the Annals of Mathematics, where prominent mathematicians evaluate their work before publication. His behaviour was similar to Satoshi Nakamoto’s, who just as suddenly left the Bitcoin project.
Furthermore, Satoshi’s perfect mastery of the English language and grammar in correspondence wouldn’t be a problem for Mochizuki since he moved to the United States when he was five. The strongest argument against Mochizuki being Satoshi Nakamoto is the lack of experience in computer science and coding.
Hal was one of the first people to react to Satoshi’s post on the cyberpunks mailing list, and many experts believe that he was one of the members of the team behind the creation of Bitcoin.
„When Satoshi announced the first release of the software, I grabbed it right away,“ said Finney in a 2013 post on the BitcoinTalk forum. Finney was probably the first person after Nakamoto to run the bitcoin software. Finney even mined one of the blocks with an order number 70-80 on the bitcoin blockchain and was the first recipient of a bitcoin transaction when Satoshi Nakamoto himself sent him ten bitcoins. At the time of the first bitcoin transfer, there was no monetary value of this asset in dollars or euros.
That Satoshi Nakamoto chose Hal as the first bitcoin recipient is of no surprise. Satoshi held Hal in high esteem. Thanks to developing the PGP encryption system and creating the first reusable proof-of-work system, Hal established himself as one of the smartest programmers and cryptographers in the world.
Finney, a dedicated libertarian, believed that the computer is a tool to liberate and protect people, not control them. The cryptographic activist led various campaigns for privacy protection and against the use of massive databanks and the growing centralisation faced by Americans at the time.
The stylistic findings regarding the PGP encryption program and Bitcoin whitepaper were also interesting. Both Satoshi Nakamoto and Hal Finney use double space in their documents after each sentence. Furthermore, according to AI, both documents are written exactly the same, which means the same dialect, style, and sentence structure. Additionally, Hal often used British English, just like Nakamoto. Nevertheless, Finney has categorically denied any connection to being Satoshi Nakamoto.
We might never learn whether Hal was Satoshi. The genius programmer lost his battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis on 28 August 2014.
One of the most interesting stories concerning the search for the true identity of Satoshi Nakamoto is the story of Japanese-American engineer Dorian Nakamoto.
In 2014, American weekly magazine Newsweek named Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakomoto, then a 64-years old physicist in retirement living in California, as the founder of Bitcoin. Publication of this news caused chaos in the broader crypto community, and many have believed that the mystery of Satoshi Nakamoto has been solved.
Newsweek pointed to a number of facts that link him to the genius inventor of Bitcoin. Both Satoshi and Dorian had libertarian tendencies and roots in Japan. Additionally, Dorian, who studied physics at the Polytechnic University of California and worked on secret defence projects, is a Japanese living in the US, which would explain Nakamoto’s fluent English.
The resolution of the whole story was supposed to take place when Newsweek journalist Leah Mcgrath Goodman met Dorian Nakomoto with the assistance of two police officers from Temple City, California. Dorian was wearing a crumpled T-shirt, old blue jeans, and white socks. He looked as if he hadn’t slept for two weeks. When Goodman asked him about Bitcoin, Dorian seemed slightly freaked, stared at the sidewalk, and said: „I am no longer involved in that and cannot discuss it. It’s been turned over to other people. They are in charge of it now. I no longer have any connection.“ As a result, his house got surrounded by hordes of reporters demanding one thing – confirmation that Dorian is the real Satoshi.
Eventually, it turned out that Dorian probably wasn’t the real Nakamoto. In other interviews, it was revealed that Dorian doesn’t know much about Bitcoin and when he said, „I have no connection to it anymore,“ he most likely meant a certain contract he was developing for the US army. Thus, the mystery remained unsolved.
Nick Szabo is a computer scientist known for his many years of work with digital currencies and smart contracts. In 1998, Szabo introduced the concept of decentralised digital currency Bit Gold, which is often seen as the precursor to Bitcoin. For this very reason, Szabo is often considered a possible founder of Bitcoin.
There are several similarities between Szabo and Satoshi. Firstly, the concept of Bit Gold provided important inputs for the development trends on which Bitcoin itself was later built. Secondly, Nick Szabo has previously contacted an almost identical group of developers with a feedback request for his crypto project as Satoshi did.
Furthermore, the web portal Gizmodo reports that Satoshi and Szabo have very similar writing styles, such as using similar phrases, abbreviations and ways of writing. Gizmodo states that in 2014 researchers from Aston University, England, have compared the writing styles of several adepts for Nakamoto. They found that none of the published texts by other candidates matches Nakomoto’s publications so precisely as those of Nick Szabo. Jack Grieve, a lecturer in charge of this research, has stated that the similarities between Szabo and Nakamoto were „uncanny.“
Dominik Frisby, author of „Bitcoin: The Future of Money?“ is leaning towards the same conclusion. He even approached an expert in stylometry, a study of linguistic style that deals with statistical determination or confirmation of characteristic attributes of the text. The expert also concluded that Szabov’s writing style was very similar to texts published by Satoshi himself.
The debate over whether Nick Szabo is the real Nakamoto was also fueled by altered time stamps on a blog post about the digital currency Bit Gold. Even though the blog post states publication date of 27 December 2008, a later date than the bitcoin white paper publication, the post was actually published in 2005. Why Nick Szabo altered the publication date to make it look like it was published after the bitcoin whitepaper remains a mystery.
Even though there is evidence that Szabo intentionally changed the publication date, there is no answer as to why he did it. The most probable variant is that he didn’t want his post about Bit Gold to precede the publication of the bitcoin document to hide his identity. Moreover, it’s interesting that the other developers, whether Finney or Wei Dai, have publicised their correspondence with Nakomoto, but Szabo never has.
However, Szabo has denied all claims and evidence that he is the real Satoshi Nakamoto.
The main takeaway from the long quest after the anonymous Bitcoin creator’s identity is that it doesn’t matter who created Bitcoin. Regardless of whether Satoshi’s identity is known, Bitcoin would keep working as it does now. It would still be the decentralised currency managed by millions of nodes worldwide that doesn’t need for its operation intervention by any central authority.