Who is the mysterious creator of Bitcoin? The hunt for Satoshi Nakamoto has led to numerous false leads, at least one unproven claim to the moniker, and plenty of speculation surrounding the origins of Bitcoin. Sadly, none of it (to my knowledge) in the soothing tones of Sean Connery.
An especially interesting question is whether Satoshi Nakamoto is still alive. If Satoshi Nakamoto has not been incapacitated, could he, she, or they still be watching Bitcoin (and occasionally facepalming) and could the person or group who used this pseudonym have moved on to other innovative projects inside and outside the Cryptosphere?
In The Hunt For Satoshi Nakamoto, who are the contenders?
When Craig Wright, an Australian computer scientist, claimed to be Satoshi Nakamoto he got jumped on pretty quickly; and even some parties who initially believed him wound up reversing course, especially when it became obvious that he could not or would not prove it. Was he an attention-seeking glory hound or a fool who failed to pay attention to what happened to all the other people who were mistaken for the creator of Bitcoin at some point?
Hal Finney is one of the more likely candidates because was involved in cryptography research in the 1990s and claimed to have direct contact with Satoshi Nakamoto due to being members of the same mailing lists. The story, as told on Bitcoin Talk, has it that he saw potential in Satoshi Nakamoto’s work where most other cryptographers were skeptical… and that he helped Nakamoto with troubleshooting.
He received the first-ever Bitcoin transaction as a test of the system and became wealthy through mining Bitcoin when he could still do it on a desktop computer. His claim to have had direct contact with Satoshi Nakamoto while Bitcoin was still under development has led at least one journalist to postulate that Hal Finney was actually the creator of Bitcoin, and Finney seemed quite amused by the quixotic quest* for the shadowy Nakamoto.
Finney died in 2014, and his body remains cryogenically frozen. Just in case?
Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto has been involved in a legal battle with Newsweek over a story claiming that he is the creator of Bitcoin. Interestingly, he raised funds for the legal battle by accepting Bitcoin donations. The Newsweek story claimed that Dorian Nakamoto, an engineer, had done classified work for major corporations and the U.S. military. Other sources say that he had been unemployed for quite some time, that is wife may have left him over the Bitcoin story, and that he had become so strapped for cash that he moved in with relatives and canceled his Internet service.
Nick Szabo, another computer scientist, is one candidate with a well-established interest in digital currencies that predates Bitcoin. He had previously written a paper on a possible Bitcoin precursor that he called Bitgold. However, even those who have investigated Satoshi Nakamoto agree that the evidence is tantalizing, but inconclusive.
Does It Matter Who Satoshi Nakamoto Is?
The hunt for Satoshi Nakamoto may have been clouded by the person or persons themselves: they claimed to be a 37-year-old male living in Japan, a statement that many Bitcoin insiders doubt, given his command of English and failure to document Bitcoin in the Japanese language. A pattern of the times of day in which Nakamoto was active in forums indicates that he was most likely to be asleep between the hours of 5am and 11am GMT. So unless Nakamoto was a night owl, he is most likely to have lived in the Americas.
The only thing that’s certain is that Satoshi Nakamoto’s last confirmed correspondence indicates that he had “moved on to other things”.
Of course, Bitcoin users will tell you that the hunt for Satoshi Nakamoto is useless and may actually be counterproductive. It may make for an interesting prime time TV documentary, but isn’t all that important in the grand scheme of things.
Bitcoin entrepreneur Jason Weinstein opined, “At the end of the day, knowing the identity of Satoshi is about as important as knowing who created HTTP or HTML. Every day people communicate, socialize, get information, move money, and transact business over the Internet using these protocols without knowing how they work or who created them.”
Satoshi Nakamoto and his or their writings may become matters for scholars to study and argue over for generations to come. If the creator(s) of Bitcoin are still watching, they may occasionally facepalm over ongoing events like the Bitcoin Civil War, which has reached a scale which threatens to pull Bitcoin apart through endless forks.
Whether the hunt for Satoshi Nakamoto ends in success or continues in failure, Bitcoin’s Creation Myth throws a long shadow over the Bitcoin community will persist… as any good ghost story published close to Halloween should.
*Editor’s Note: although ‘The Quixotic Quest For Red October’ would have been a terrific name for a movie, we can’t see a young Alec Baldwin being able to pronounce it.