Opinion

Who Is Satoshi Nakamoto?

Caroline Bowler
Aug 2nd 2021

Satoshi Nakamoto: The creator of Bitcoin

Bitcoin was first revealed to the public in a 2008 whitepaper. That whitepaper outlined the potential of a digital currency and how transactions could be verified without needing to resort to a central, third-party authority while still retaining user anonymity. That solution was the Blockchain, a central ledger powered by the collective input of computers all over the globe. It was an obvious yet genius solution to a problem that stalled potential cryptocurrency for decades previously. If money only existed as a digital product, how did you exert control over it and avoid fraud?

Other attempts to create a cryptocurrency had failed, either because they relied too heavily on existing banking systems (negating the point of a cryptocurrency) or because they simply didn’t have an effective way of addressing the issue of fraud. Blockchain avoided all of these issues. The whitepaper itself also factored in the steady release of this theoretical currency, theoretically avoiding issues such as supply and inflation in the process. The potential was immediately obvious, and it garnered considerable attention in cryptography circles.

The author of that paper? One Satoshi Nakamoto.

Satoshi Nakamoto and Bitcoin

Questions immediately started to follow in the wake of the whitepaper’s publication. “Satoshi Nakamoto'' was an unknown name in the tight-knit cryptography community, and even cursory online searches quickly revealed that it was likely a pseudonym. Nakamoto did nothing to clear up the mystery, refusing to answer any questions about himself and solely commenting on the nature of his technology. A number of people claim to have had contact with him via email, though it was reportedly erratic in nature and did nothing to confirm Satoshi Nakamoto’s identity.

Interest began to spike further in January 2009 when the first real Bitcoins became available to the public. It was proof of Nakamoto’s concept in action; one can presumably speculate that the technology was at least in development, if not completely ready to go before the initial whitepaper was launched. It would ramp up further in 2010, once the first real-world purchases with Bitcoin began to be made. But the Bitcoin creator was not forthcoming in the wake of this new interest from the press and the public. Indeed, he ceased all correspondence in December 2010, simply stating that he had moved on to other things. Nothing has been knowingly heard from him since, with Bitcoin seemingly being left to be steered without his input. Within certain circles, it’s still common for people to query “Where is Satoshi Nakamoto?” within certain circles, though his return looks increasingly unlikely after more than a decade.

Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin holdings

Of course, Nakamoto’s disappearance was arguably always going to occur. With the currency released in the wake of a GFC that rivalled the Great Depression in its impact, Bitcoin represented a potential alternative to the government and back-banked currencies which had so recently floundered. Retaining an overseer would have been contrary to the goals outlined in Satoshi Nakamoto’s whitepaper.

Additionally, Nakamoto probably had — or has — several compelling reasons to keep his identity secret. One of cryptocurrency’s initial selling points was anonymity around transactions, so it makes sense that its founder would want to retain some of that ambiguity for themselves. Not to mention that although the question of “How many bitcoins does Satoshi Nakamoto have?” is estimated to be around the 1 million mark — that’s a lot of potential money in 2021, and it’s entirely likely that unwanted attention would soon follow from would-be hackers or other bad actors looking to get a slice of that pie.

Pretenders to the throne

Yet none of this has stopped people from coming out of the woodwork to claim that they are Nakamoto. Considerable ink has been spilled by journalists attempting to identify likely candidates. Dorian Nakamoto was the first major name identified by the press, though he denies any association. In contrast, Australian computer scientist (and noted eccentric) Craig Wright also maintains that he is Nakamoto despite considerable evidence to the contrary.

One of the more promising candidates, Hal Finney — who was the recipient of the first Bitcoin transaction from Nakamoto — died in 2014, so it’s entirely possible that Satoshi Nakamoto is dead. But it’s just as likely that he is still enjoying his anonymity quietly and enjoying the fruits of his creation.

For newcomers to the world of cryptocurrency, it’s understandable to ask questions like “Is Satoshi Nakamoto real?” Perhaps not, in the sense of being an individual. The possibility of Nakamoto being a collective rather than an individual has also been floated, and it’s one of the more compelling options. The work poured into both the whitepaper and Satoshi Nakamoto’s Blockchain would suggest the work of multiple parties rather than an individual, though it should be noted that similar concepts had existed in theory before its publication.

One thing that must be admired is Nakamoto’s consistent ability to avoid detection, particularly in a digital environment where all of us are so heavily connected. Even today, the internet becomes abuzz with speculation whenever Nakamoto is believed to have moved coins around from one of his (admittedly still unknown) accounts. It can have real-world implications, including drops in Bitcoin pricing or press speculation about whether an identity reveal is about to occur.

But nonetheless, Nakamoto’s identity is arguably a moot point at this juncture. Whoever he, she or they may be, Bitcoin is a creation that has grown far beyond its initial theoretical origins and grown into a currency and investment that has wowed the world. It’s set the template for countless other cryptocurrencies in its wake and helped introduce new ideas into a stagnant financial system. Perhaps it’s these facets that we should be focusing on, rather than looking to identify specific people — who, after all, created the currency with privacy in mind.

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