If you have heard of Bitcoin, you’re probably familiar with the infamous Satoshi Nakamoto, creator of the beloved Bitcoin. Back in November 2008 a whitepaper was released by the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto titled ‘Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System‘, not long after the first block of the Bitcoin blockchain on January 3rd 2009. Now 8 years on the mystery still remains… Who is Satoshi Nakamoto?
There are a number of theories around who Satoshi Nakamoto may be, which make for a very interesting read.
To begin with, you need to know who the original members of the bitcoin project were. Given that blockchain technology was a completely new idea, there were only a handful of people on the entire planet at that time who could actually have the technological background to have any idea of how to develop this technology into a real world application.
To explain the theories outlined in this article, you need to be familiar with a group known as the Cypherpunks and the Cypherpunk movement, generally regarded as the foundations which led to the creation of Bitcoin.
Back in 1992, a group of cryptographers formed a group which met monthly, and by 1994 had a mailing list of 700 subscribers. The forum became highly active with discussions ranging from; cryptography, mathematics, computer science and other very complex topics.
The Cypherpunk movement arguably began with David Chaum; after his paper in 1981 “Untraceable Electronc Mail, Return Addresses and Digital Pseudonyms” he went on to found DigiCash which became hugely popular given how far ahead of its time this invention was. Unfortunately David Chaum and his company agreed that DigiCash would only be sold to banks. This meant it became centralized and ultimately failed, an event which later went on to play a huge role in cryptocurrencies as we now know them today.
Some of the notable members of the Cypherfunks are in the image above. You may recognise some/all of the names up there. Between them, they have pretty impressive CV’s boasting a range of important innovations and projects in the history of cryptography.
• David Chaum – DigiCash
• Hal Finney – RPow
• Phil Zimmerman – PGP Encryption
• Nick Szabo – Bit Gold
• Adam Back – Hashcash
• John Gilmore & Tim C. May- Cypherpunk Mailing List
• Julian Assange – Wikileaks
• Wei Dai – B Money
This leads us on to exploring some of the popular theories around who the man, woman or group behind the famous pseudonym ‘Satoshi Nakamoto’.
1) David Chaum – given that he was seemingly on the right path with DigiCash, he simply did not implement the technology correctly. His vision was similar to that of Bitcoin and maybe he learned from mistakes made in the 1990’s. David Chaums’ name is often thrown into the ring as a result of this, although there is not much more supporting evidence. The theory would tie in quite nicely with his original paper if he were to use a ‘digital pseudonym’ as the identity behind Bitcoin.
2) ‘Newsweek supposedly find Satoshi Nakamoto’ – back in 2014 Newsweek magazine reported to have uncovered the mystery in an 64-year old man named ‘Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto’. The man in question was said to have originally supported the narrative before making a complete U-turn and denying he was in fact the founder of Bitcoin. This theory has always been largely dismissed as the reports just weren’t that conclusive although it does tie in quite well for the next theory.
3) Hal Finney – Hal Finney could well be the founder of Bitcoin he was supposedly the first person after Satoshi Nakamoto to use the Bitcoin software and make improvements to it. Hal Finney unfortunately became ill in late 2009 and passed away in 2014 and it was in these years when Bitcoin was released and the last ever message received from Satoshi Nakamoto. Hal Finney also created the first reusable proof of work (PoW) system, Bitcoin then went on to be the second to use this technology. Finally Hal Finney is reported to have lived just a few blocks away from ‘Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto’ who Newsweek famously accused.
4) Nick Szabo – This is one of the most popular theories behind the mystery. The creator of Bit Gold was in contact with Satoshi Nakamoto and did a lot of work on Bitcoin in its early days. When working on Bit Gold he was said to have been in contact with with the same people who had early contact with Satoshi Nakamoto, he also back-dated a blog post he had earlier released about Bit-gold to appear as though it was wrote after Satoshi Nakamoto released the whitepaper for Bitcoin. Finally researchers at Aston University analysed writings of that by Nick Szabo and Satoshi Nakamotos’ Bitcoin whitepaper.
Dr Grieve Said: “The number of linguistic similarities between Szabo’s writing and the Bitcoin paper is uncanny, none of the other possible authors were anywhere near as good of a match. We are pretty confident that out of the list of people regularly referred to as possibilities, Nick Szabo is the main author of the paper, though we can’t rule out the possibility that others contributed.”
”Our study adds to the weight of evidence pointing towards Nick Szabo. The case looks pretty clear-cut. Szabo s an expert in law, finance, cryptography and computer science. He created ‘Bit gold’, a precursor to Bitcoin, and was looking for collaborators in 2008. Did Nick Szabo create Bitcoin? We’re not sure, but we think he probably wrote the paper so it’s certainly worth a closer look”
5) The final theory worth mentioning is that Satoshi Nakamoto is not an individual and rather a collaboration or minds, who used their range of backgrounds and skills to design Bitcoin and its’ underlying technology. The psuedonym could then have been used to represent their collective identity. Of all the theories this carries the logical fact that it would at least support a lot of the arguments above (if not all of them) as they could all still be true. In fact, all of the above are Satoshi Nakamoto in their own right. However the main piece of evidence to support this theory is simply that the work both published and the work that went into the creation of Bitcoin was so meticulous and advanced that no one mind would be able to do all of this and instead would have to be a collaboration of many minds.
Personally i feel the fact that we don’t know the true identiy behind the pseudonym ‘Satoshi Nakamonto’ is the way it should remian. It helps keep the vision of giving control to the people (users) by not crediting it to any individual. Rather the community all work together creating a self sustaining platform for which to use the digital currency.
Let us know your thoughts or alternate theories.