Hunt for Satoshi!

We’ve been intending to summarize the “hunt for Satoshi”, so let’s take this opportunity to do so, as there have been some claims in this regard lately.

Of course, many journalists, investigators, and curious people have engaged in this particular “treasure hunt”, so far with close to zero results, which in itself is an indication that this person, male or female, group or individual, has taken extreme precautions to obfuscate the origin of his/her/their work, and was capable of doing so. Another related topic of discussion concerns Nakamoto’s motivation for staying anonymous. Is he alive or has he passed away, taking with him his secret keys? This would explain why he has not touched a single coin of his immense crypto wealth. We estimate that he controls about 700,000 Bitcoins. If he is alive, what an amazing man to be able to put his anonymity and his ideas ahead of enjoying his success! Or does he fear being persecuted like other creators of private money have been in recent history (e.g., the creators of the “Liberty Dollar” in 1998 and the E-Gold in 2007). Or is it something even more dramatic, or weird? The legend is open to imaginative theories.

There have been a number of “I am Satoshi” claims, but none have been able to prove it in the most convincing way, that is, to at least move some of the Bitcoins attributed to the original inventor. Clearly, demonstrating possession of a secret key reputed to belong to Nakamoto (or sign a message with the PGP key that he used in earlier communication), would at least support the claim, and would demonstrate that the person has, at least, had contact with Satoshi Nakamoto.

The clues that can be exploited in this hunt are diverse. What we know of Satoshi is mainly derived from his writing. The whitepaper, including the style of language, has been used to rule out some claims by imposters. Then there is the communication with other developers, including the infamous debate with Dan Larimer. And then, around all that, other clues can be derived, for example, the time he posted (which would point to a European time-zone); or finding out who registered the domain in August 2008.

Nakamoto disappeared on the 23rd of April, 2011. After sending a short email to his co-developer, Mike Hearn, stating that he had “moved to something else”, he was never heard from again and has not shown any signs of life at all, leaving people to wonder who he/she/they could be. Let us review the various candidates that have emerged so far that could be Satoshi:

  • Dorian Nakamoto was identified in March 2014 by a Newsweek journalist as the person behind Bitcoin. He is a retired Japanese-American physicist living in California, and his birth name is Satoshi. Upon being questioned by the journalist, Dorian stated that he was “no longer involved in that” and that he “cannot discuss it.” While the journalist took these quotations as a tacit acknowledgment of his involvement, Dorian Nakamoto denies this, and claims that these statements were taken out of context; he was referring to other confidential engineering projects he was involved with during his professional life. One has to wonder, though, why a person, so keen to remain anonymous, would use their real name online.

  • Very early Bitcoin Core contributors are suspects/candidates to be the actual Satoshi Nakamoto; Hal Finney is one of them. He was the first to test a BTC transfer on-chain, interacting with Nakamoto. He died from a neurodegenerative disease in 2014 and has always denied being Satoshi.

  • Nick Szabo, a cypherpunk, hyper secretive and expert cryptographer, also denies being the original inventor. However, an important clue points to him: a team of linguists compared the text of the Bitcoin whitepaper with the writing of a number of potential Nakamotos, and they point to Szabo, without a doubt.

  • Others, not involved with Bitcoin’s development, have claimed to be Satoshi and have been met with skepticism, to say the least, from the crypto community. The most controversial of all is the Australian entrepreneur, Craig Wright. While having been involved early in Bitcoin mining, Wright lost credibility when he produced “evidence” that was later shown to be false. He subsequently promised to produce genuine evidence but has failed to do so.

So… it seems the people who want to be Satoshi is not, and those who could be, deny they are. One thing is clear: Nakamoto has a place on the list of famous, but mysterious people that fuel the popular imagination!

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