Who is Satoshi Nakamoto?
Is he from Japan and is it even a he? Or maybe the creator of Bitcoin is a woman? Or maybe both, and Satoshi Nakamoto is the name of a group of people? No one knows.
Nonetheless, we can be sure about two things: Satoshi Nakamoto is a pseudonym and the individual or group of individuals that have used it created something genius, the first blockchain powering Bitcoin.
Multiple people have been suspected of being Satoshi Nakamoto; however, none have been able to convince the crypto community. It could be that Nakamoto’s true identity will always remain a mystery, which is something poetic, especially when looking at the rising value and impact of Bitcoin.
The Birth of a New Technology
It was 2008 and the world was in shock because of yet another major crisis caused by the global financial industry.
Coincidentally, a technology with the power to disrupt this industry had been in the making. Nakamoto is said to have been working on the Bitcoin system since 2007. Once he felt confident enough about his idea, he started contacting cryptographers through a cryptography mailing list and he started discussing his idea, asking for feedback and looking for general assistance.
In the beginning of 2009, Nakamoto released an academic paper, or a white paper, in which he described his envisioned system in detail. After this, he started running the code for Bitcoin and began testing the technology.
Both the paper and the initial code were highly respected by field experts, who started to realize Nakamoto was working on something potentially world-changing. They started to help Bitcoin progress and evolve, and more people joined ranks.
As soon as Bitcoin got the attention of the mass media, it was discarded as something used for illegal transactions, fueled by the acceptance of Bitcoin by Silk Road and Wikileaks.
However, over time, more and more people started to realise the true potential of Bitcoin and a whole new industry emerged: an industry ignited by the invention of an unknown party.
So what do we know about Satoshi Nakamoto?
Although nobody has ever claimed to have actually spoken to Nakamoto, there has been plenty of online communications with him. He reached out to cryptographers and developers and communicated with individuals that helped him in the development of his creation.
From all of these chats, it can be concluded that Nakamoto was highly protective of his identity. He never spoke about anything personal and never revealed anything that could be used to identify him.
When he was asked about this, he indicated that he wanted to remain anonymous so that his invention and the creator would be completely separate. This fits the decentralised nature of Bitcoin and blockchain, as there is no central authority. He understood that once Bitcoin received mainstream attention, his persona would be linked to the technology which would only devalue his creation.
There are some things Nakamoto communicated that are worth mentioning. For instance, he made a request to Wikileaks not to accept Bitcoin as it was still in its infancy and the nature of Wikileaks would draw a lot of negative attention and forces to Bitcoin. Wikileaks followed this advice and held off using Bitcoin until it was more stable. Accepting Bitcoin turned out to be very profitable for Wikileaks.
He also left a message open to interpretation in the first Bitcoin block ever to be mined. In this block, he entered the text “The Times, 3 January 2009, Chancellor on brink of second bailout for bank”. There’s been a lot of speculation about the meaning of this; however, since Bitcoin is a means of financial transactions and value storage, it’s likely a criticism on the very industry Bitcoin is currently disrupting.
In 2010, Nakamoto retreated from the online world. His last email was to Gavin Andresen, a software developer with which Nakamoto communicated and who has been highly involved in the further development of Bitcoin. Andresen replied that he was going to explain Bitcoin to the CIA, after which nothing was ever heard from Nakamoto again.
The Search for Nakamoto
Even though it is obvious the architect of Bitcoin doesn’t want to be known, the world has not stopped trying to identify him. This continuous quest seems rather pointless as someone with such deep understanding of complex cryptography and technology is very likely capable of remaining anonymous.
It is also believed that the name “Satoshi Nakamoto” has a meaning, for when you loosely translate the name from Japanese, you get:
Satoshi – clear thinking
Naka – inside
Moto – foundation
On a forum on which Satoshi Nakamoto was active, the profile states that he is a 41 year old male Japanese.
It’s hard to believe that any of this is true. Although many still believe Nakamoto to be Japanese, there is a lot of evidence to the contrary. His online activity was mainly during US daytime and the original Bitcoin client ran in English. Reportedly, Nakamoto hired third parties to translate this Bitcoin client to Japanese.
The excessive complexities Satoshi Nakamoto faced and overcame when developing Bitcoin give rise to the idea that it was actually created by a group of people. Bitcoin has been up and running for over 8 years now and we still haven’t been able to identify one person to thank for it, let alone multiple persons.
Does It Matter?
Over the years, 4 people have been believed to be Satoshi Nakamoto. Most of the evidence have been circumstantial and the Australian former academic Craig Wright, who claimed to be Nakamoto, failed twice to provide convincing evidence. With the years passing by, the chances of uncovering Nakamoto’s true identity grow smaller.
In fact, it can be argued that the identity of Nakamoto doesn’t really matter. As Nakamoto stated, we should see the invention separate from the inventor. Bitcoin and blockchain are decentralised and owned by the network, meaning there are no central figures. The code is out and open sourced and Nakamoto is unable to control this anyway.
What does matter is the fact that Nakamoto owns about 1 million Bitcoins, and a similar amount of the forked coins, with a combined value of approximately $6.5 billion. This is because in Bitcoin’s early stages, he mined Bitcoin by himself. Knowing that there are about 16.5 million Bitcoins on in circulation, this means that Nakamoto owns 1/16th of the market. It makes you wonder, what will Nakamoto use this for?
All in all, the legend of Satoshi Nakamoto is a beautiful mystery that suits the complex and disruptive nature of Bitcoin and blockchain. And you’ll never know… maybe, when Nakamoto’s vision has come true, the true identity of Bitcoin’s creator(s) will be revealed.