Who is Satoshi Nakamoto and should you care?
It may come as a surprise but there is no shortage of bitcoin investors who have never even heard of Satoshi Nakamoto or even that he, she or they wrote the whitepaper and released the open source code that started a revolution.
Perhaps never in Satoshi’s wildest dreams would they (it’s just easier to use this pronoun) have imagined that the nine-page whitepaper they wrote and open source code they released would have blossomed into a US$1 trillion market cap and a further US$1.5 trillion from other cryptocurrencies.
When the bitcoin whitepaper was released, nobody cared about Nakamoto’s identity and like so many new inventions (just as Henry Ford), the idea behind bitcoin was dismissed.
What we do know is that on January 9, 2009, Hal Finney, who had been working remotely with Nakamoto for weeks (even before the days of Zoom calls) got the bitcoin network up and running and the first transaction of bitcoin.
Over the next two years, as bitcoin slowly grew, Nakamoto wrote on message boards and privately exchanged emails with developers, but they used methods which were intended to ensure they could never be found, including anonymous email addresses and layers of encryption that would have made it virtually impossible to back trace the creator of such communications.
Then suddenly in December 2010, Nakamoto stopped posting publicly and by 2011, disappeared altogether, even ceasing communications with developers, handing over the project to Gavin Andresen, a software developer.
Incredibly, in an age where it’s virtually impossible to remain anonymous, Nakamoto, whose only breadcrumbs are two email addresses and one website, had their identity blocked.
In bitcoin’s first year of existence, one million were “mined” but have never been moved and would be worth somewhere in the region of US$57 billion at today’s prices and would make Nakamoto one of the 30 richest people in the world, according to Forbes.
But no one knows for sure that these 1 million bitcoins even belong to Nakamoto, although the ability to prove that ownership, for instance, by moving the bitcoin, would provide someone with a strong claim to being Nakamoto.
In the early years, a popular theory was that given how bitcoin potentially undermined the seigniorage of governments globally, anonymity was not just convenient, it was necessary to avoid arrest and persecution.
Since then, anyone who has ever worked on bitcoin in the early days has been speculated to be Nakamoto, including Hal Finney, who died in 2014 and Gavin Andresen.
Nick Szabo, who had the necessary skills to have created bitcoin has often been touted to be Nakamoto as well but all have denied being the mysterious creator of the cryptocurrency.
Ultimately it doesn’t matter for traders and investors who created bitcoin, and if nothing else, the speculation and mystery adds to the allure of the cryptocurrency.
Nobody wonders who created Ethereum, because everyone knows.
If bitcoin is to maintain its narrative as a censor-proof store of value that isn’t susceptible to manipulation, then the more mystery, the better.
Because there’s no one to finger the creation of bitcoin on, it’s harder to claim that its creator had intended to enrich themselves by creating this new means to store, transfer and account for value and feeds into the narrative.
A Florida lawsuit may throw up some additional controversy, just to maintain the cryptic portion of a cryptocurrency.
Craig Wright, an Australian computer scientist has long claimed to be Satoshi Nakamoto, a declaration that has been met with no shortage of ridicule and litigation.
But the family of a deceased colleague, Dave Kleiman is now suing Wright, alleging that bitcoin was the product of a business partnership and that Wright owes Kleiman’s estate half of those one million bitcoins that haven’t been moved since the very beginning.
If a jury finds that Wright and Kleiman did indeed create bitcoin and that Wright would need to pay out 500,000 bitcoin to Kleiman’s estate, it could confirm that Wright was telling the truth all along.
However, the odds of that bitcoin being moved is unlikely and there’s more than circumstantial evidence to suggest that Wright isn’t Nakamoto or had anything to do with the creation of bitcoin.
But either ways it doesn’t matter, so long as the mystery remains, the claim that unlike central bank fiat currencies, bitcoin’s creator had never intended to enrich themselves adds more to the mystique and allure of the cryptocurrency and nascent asset class.