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Who Is Satoshi Nakamoto, the Creator of Bitcoin?

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Despite Bitcoin's fabled anonymity, one crucial component of this bubblicious mystery remains elusively opaque. Who is Satoshi Nakamoto, anyway?

There are many too many hints and little, if any, solutions, just like a confusing Lost episode. Of course, Satoshi is the one who started it all, presenting the world with his idea of a cryptographic, self-regulating digital currency in his now-famous whitepaper in 2008.

He was gone three years back.

Bitcoin is now a multibillion-dollar concept that is being embraced all over the world, but little is understood about its mysterious founder. As a result, there has been a lot of wild conjecture. Last week, Ted Nelson, the American computer pioneer who invented the word "hypertext," suggested that Satoshi was a well-known, reclusive Japanese mathematician. There are no assumptions, just educated guesses, due to Satoshi's paranoid defense of his anonymity. But who doesn't like a good conspiracy theory, particularly when the subject is a futuristic technology that many feels has the ability to completely upend society?

What We Know

COPYRIGHT_WI: Published on https://washingtonindependent.com/ebv/who-is-satoshi-nakamoto-the-creator-of-bitcoin/ by Jaya Mckeown on 2021-04-14T10:32:27.335Z

In 2008, Satoshi came out of nowhere when he published a research paper on The Cryptography Mailing List that paved the groundwork for the Bitcoin protocol. He appeared to have been working on the concept for only two years, which, considering the quality of the final product, meant a significant amount of time.

He began mining in January 2009, resulting in the development of the “genesis block.” Six days later, Bitcoin v0.1 was released. About 32,000 blocks had been added to this original block by the end of the year, resulting in a total of 1,624,250 bitcoins. We know that only a quarter of those bitcoins have actually changed hands and all transactions are available on the blockchain, causing others to speculate that Satoshi might be sitting on a hoard of roughly one million bitcoins worth about $120 million at today's exchange rate.

Satoshi was involved on the Bitcoin Forum in the early days, and he replied to emails on a regular basis. About the fact that Bitcoin is an open-source project, Satoshi made the majority of the changes to the source code in the first year, but his activity soon faded. After passing the reins to Gavin Andresen, Bitcoin's new lead developer, he made his last programming contribution in mid-2010. When asked about his waning operation in April 2011, Satoshi told one Bitcoin developer that he had "moved on to other matters." He eventually stopped responding to emails, including those from Andresen. The creator was nowhere to be seen.

An Internet Representation Of Satoshi Nakamoto

Satoshi Nakamoto is thought to be a fictitious name for an individual, a community, or even a larger, perhaps governmental entity. Satoshi means "clear-thinking" or "smart" in Japanese. Naka can mean "within" or "relationship," while moto refers to "the beginning" or "base." When you put it all together, you have “clear thought inside the foundation.” There is no indication that Nakamoto lived outside of the Bitcoin sense.

Satoshi appeared to be a 37-year-old Japanese man, according to his P2P foundation account data. His first language was English, although he would switch between British and American spellings and colloquialisms, which may indicate that he was attempting to conceal his ethnicity or that Satoshi is really several people. He would randomly post on forums and reply to emails, with no discernible trends that would signify a primary time zone. Satoshi is extremely educated and politically capable, based on his small body of study. He's a genius mathematician, an expert in cryptography, and an accomplished programmer, though his code suggests he wasn't a specialist.

Although his theory was sound, his manner betrayed his lack of knowledge, causing others, including Andresen, to think Satoshi was an academic. One of the more common fears throughout the early days of Bitcoin was that any exploitable weakness in the protocol might soon emerge, crippling the revolution. The procedure is already bulletproof four years later, a tribute to Satoshi's genius, foresight, and thoroughness. It also implies that, if Satoshi is a single being, he is a fantastic proofreader.

While Satoshi seemed to recognize that the Bitcoin revolution would draw ideologies such as anti-government libertarians, it's uncertain if Satoshi was politically driven himself. His motive may be viewed as pragmatic if he appeared keen to attract certain groups to the cause at times. He left the politicization to others, keenly aware of the possible social consequences of his theory. "If we can describe it well, [Bitcoin] is very enticing to the libertarian perspective," he said. “However, I'm better with code than with words.” Based on his writings, we know he had issues with the financial system and sees Bitcoin as a technical solution: The root problem with traditional money is the amount of confidence needed to make it work.

The central bank must be trusted not to debase the currency, but fiat currencies have a long history of betraying a confidence. Banks must be trusted with our money in order to keep it and send it online, but they lend it out in floods of credit bubbles with just a fraction of it held in reserve. We have to trust them with our personal information, and we have to trust them not to let identity thieves steal our money. Micropayments are impossible for them due to their high operating costs.

Multi-user time-sharing computer networks had a related issue a decade earlier. Users had to rely on password authentication to lock their files before solid encryption, putting their trust in the system administrator to keep their information confidential. The admin could still override privacy if he made a judgment call balancing the principle of privacy against other considerations, or if his supervisors demanded it. Then, as strong cryptography became widely available, confidence was no longer needed.

No matter what the cause, no matter how compelling the justification, no matter what, data should be secured in a manner that made it physically difficult for anyone to reach it. It's past time we had something similar for money. Money can be safe because transfers can be simple with e-currency based on cryptographic verification, which eliminates a need to trust a third-party middleman."

The Prime Suspects

Satoshi's code and writing style have been subjected to inconclusive analysis. However, with the information at hand, a few notable criminals have arisen, some of whom are more generally accepted than others.

Gavin Andresen: As the developer for both the Bitcoin project, he's an easy option (though not too obvious by Satoshi's standards). Andresen is the Bitcoin Foundation's chief scientist and the Linux community's equivalent to Linus Torvalds. Andresen, aside from Satoshi, has the most influence over Bitcoin's future. Inside the culture, the mild-mannered programmer's technological savvy and professional ethic is widely respected.

For his altruism and the simplicity of his sometimes unrewarding position, he has been dubbed Bitcoin's "Batman." Although this has been contested, one Bitcoin developer who has often corresponded with Andresen but wishes to remain anonymous cites conversational parallels between the two. Is it possible that Satoshi is lying in plain sight? When we asked Andresen if he was Satoshi over the weekend at the 2013 Bitcoin conference in San Jose, he refuted it, claiming that he has a different coding style than Satoshi.

Michael Clear, Donal O’Mahony, Hitesh Tewari And Michael Peirce Of Trinity College, Dublin

The New Yorker's Joshua Davis tracked down Michael Clear, a 23-year-old Trinity College graduate student in cryptography at the time. Despite his age, Clear seemed to tick all the right boxes. Clear had co-authored a paper on peer-to-peer cryptography when he was named Trinity's best computer science student in 2008. He was also a British citizen. Davis tracked down Clear at the Crytpo 2011 conference in Santa Barbara, where the charges were refuted. He clarified, "I'm not Satoshi." “But even if I were, I wouldn't say anything to you.” (This is a popular refrain in the Satoshi hunt.)

Because of numerous published materials linking the four, including this paper and this book, Davis's study spurred further digging among the crowd, which led to Donal O'Mahony, a university professor; Hitesh Tewari, a research assistant; and Michael Peirce, a reader. The group has been dubbed the Crypto Mano Group (mano is Irish for coin) or CMG, along with Clear. In terms of their related bodies of work, none of them have openly addressed Bitcoin.

Neal J. King, Charles Bry, And Vladamir Oksman

Fast Company's Adam L. Penenberg was inspired by the New Yorker piece to pursue his own investigation into Bitcoin's enigmatic founder. Penenberg discovered a patent application that shared the word "computationally impossible to reverse" during a textual review of Satoshi's whitepaper. The patent was filed just three days before the domain Bitcoin.org was licensed, much to Penenberg's surprise. The three have applied for patents related to cryptography, networking, networks, and nodes. All three have refuted being Satoshi, with King going so far as to dismiss the idea entirely. King told Penenberg, "It's not a very smart idea." "Nakamoto's algorithm is a challenge in need of a solution."

King's cynicism has been consistent. “It never makes touch with the real world, even in the ideas of credulous dreamers who haven't yet woken up,” he writes in the Economist. However, knowing Satoshi, it may be a ruse to hide his tracks.

Jed McCaleb

When it comes to Satoshi's identity, McCaleb's name is often used. Despite Japan's high corporate tax rate and bureaucratic red tape, the UC Berkeley dropout co-founded Mt. Gox, which is headquartered in Tokyo. Some have interpreted this as evidence of McCaleb's tenuous ties to Japan, despite the fact that he is not Japanese. In 2000, McCaleb created eDonkey, one of the most popular (and technically acclaimed) peer-to-peer file-sharing networks at the time.

Later, he would sell Mt. Gox, the world's largest Bitcoin exchange, claiming that although the site was "cool" and "needed to survive," it was no longer "technically interesting." McCaleb, a longtime Bitcoin fan, had been disillusioned with the protocol's mining method "because it loses too much electricity." He went on to create Ripple, which he considers to be a better version of the Bitcoin idea that fixes some of these shortcomings. Might Satoshi have said what he'd wear he had "moved on"?

Shinichi Mochizuki

A new feature on the Japanese mathematician has led Nelson and others to speculate that the enigmatic genius developed Bitcoin in his spare time while solving the famous ABC Conjecture, one of the math world's most difficult problems. It's difficult to doubt Mochizuki's skills, and the trends seem to be consistent. To the chagrin of mathematicians worldwide, Mochizuki published his ABC Conjecture evidence on the internet (rather than via proven scholarly channels) and then walked away, refusing to justify his potentially historic work. Mochizuki is also able to speak English, but it's unknown if he can code or understand cryptography. Still, considering Mochizuki's math prowess and exceptional intelligence, it's not difficult to imagine he taught himself.

Government

Another theory floated would be that Bitcoin is the invention of a state or governmental agency, which is a wet dream for conspiracy theorists. Resources aren't any longer an issue from such a vantage point. So why is that? The response is more like a mental experiment than a practical solution. Bitcoin has the potential to be a tool against the US dollar. It could be used to finance black ops in the same way as onion routing, which was first created by the Naval Research Laboratory, could be used as a currency. It may be used to strategically cut the finance sector's excess weight.

Bitcoin may be a preemptive attack toward a more malicious variant if policymakers think a commonly used digital currency is imminent. From the standpoint of both the United States, it may have been developed as a buffer against the dollar's declining foreign strength, but this seems doubtful considering the Fed's quantitative easing policies. The same may be said of the European Union and the teetering euro. Some also suggested that EU directives on digital currency, which were adopted and voted on even before Bitcoin became well popular, maybe a hint.

The most terrifying hypothesis is that Bitcoin is an Orwellian device that would empower governments to track all financial transactions. While Bitcoin is known for its anonymity, the blockchain's transparency ensures that any transaction is theoretically traceable. Even if each transaction is only connected with a key, some entities will ultimately be able to link the dots if given enough detail. At least in principle. In fact, government interference isn't possible, but it's not out of the question.

What We Don’t Know

In the end, we're back to square one: a few assumptions, some circumstantial proof, and none that can be considered definitive. Just a cursory study of Satoshi Nakamoto's virtually flawless implementation of the Bitcoin protocol reveals that he will approach his search for anonymity with the same degree of understanding. He knows how to play the long game.

And it's no surprise. In July 2008, only months before Satoshi released Bitcoin, the makers of e-gold were charged with "conspiracy to participate in money laundering" and "management of an unlicensed money transmission company." There's no upside to being an internet hero as the website has the power to overthrow governments and big businesses, given the treatment of people like Julian Assange and Kim Dotcom.

"His word is pretty much bond, especially if he were to come out from reclusiveness after all those years."

Satoshi Nakamoto will make a comeback at some stage in the future. Those in the group believe he is holding an eye on things, but he could reappear if the ship has to be righted. “He might kind of come in and say, ‘This is bad,'” she says. It's possible, according to a Bitcoin investor. “And he'd have a great deal of clout. His word is pretty much his bond, particularly if he were to emerge from his years of seclusion.”

Satoshi could then confirm that it was he by signing a letter to one of his genesis block keys. Before then, it's obvious he's able to keep his true identity hidden.

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About The Authors

Jaya Mckeown

Jaya Mckeown - Jaya moved to Boston from New York to pursue a master's degree in corporate communications at Emerson College. This experience, combined with her undergraduate degree in psychology and teaching, has equipped her with valuable skills that she employs on a daily basis in real estate negotiations, homebuyer and seller education, and successful promotion of the team's listings. Jaya's clients often characterize her as meticulous, proactive, and enjoyable to be around.

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