To many individuals one of the most fascinating facts about Bitcoin (albeit frightening to others) is the mystery and legend surrounding its creator, Satoshi Nakamoto.
In late 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto came out of nowhere when he (she/they) published a breakthrough white paper entitled “Bitcoin – A Peer to Peer Electronic Cash System.” The initial release came with little fan fare in the form of yet another new post on a technically focused cryptography discussion board.
In this paper Satoshi built on previous work towards building a cryptographic, protocol based electronic cash system. While previous work made solid advancements toward this vision they all failed in that they still required a trusted intermediary or controlling organization to maintain the system and make it function. The Satoshi white paper would finally solve this conundrum using nothing more than protocols and processors (i.e., technology). The “central authority” requirement that has existed for hundreds of years has finally been removed.
Satoshi accomplished this by utilizing a multi-layered, peer to peer approach to solve the verification and validation problem. By creating a system of active participants a distributed peer to peer architecture could ensure reliable value transfers without a trusted intermediary. With Bitcoin it would now be possible for two parties to remotely exchange value without utilizing banks, PayPal, or Western Union. The “network” became the “organizations.” The internet revolution enabled direct data exchange. The bitcoin/blockchain revolution enabled value exchange.
Another fascinating fun fact in the creation is Satoshi performed all the initial mining when the network was first started. Bitcoins are created through a process called mining. Mining was modeled on thousands of years of historical precedence on what makes something valuable. Something is generally thought to be “valuable” when it is highly desired, creates or preserves value, is of limited supply, and is difficult to obtain/procure. Gold, silver, and gemstones typically meet these requirements and are obtained by mining (or discovery) so the moniker is perfect.
Satoshi dutifully performed all mining in the early weeks until more participants could be brought on the network to contribute CPU power to grow the network. During the period Satoshi was actively mining he had accumulated roughly one million bitcoins across various wallet addresses. Even more interesting is that as of today, absolutely zero Satoshi bitcoins have been transferred or spent from the various addresses attributed to him.
So what are we to make of this mysterious, visionary creator? Who is Satoshi Nakamoto and how did he conceive this wondrous and marvelous creation? Here’s what we currently know to be the facts about Satoshi (source: Wikipedia).
- In October 2008, Nakamoto published a paper on The Cryptography Mailing list at metzdowd.com describing the bitcoin digital currency. It was entitled Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System.
- In January 2009, Nakamoto released the first bitcoin software that launched the network as well as the first units of blockchain tokens, called bitcoins. Satoshi Nakamoto released the Version 0.1 of Bitcoin software on Sourceforge on 9 January 2009.
- Nakamoto created a website with the domain name bitcoin.org and continued to collaborate with other developers on the bitcoin software until mid-2010. Around this time, he handed over control of the source code repository and network alert key and stopped his involvement in the project.
- The inventor left a text message in the first mined block which reads ‘The Times 3 January 2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks’. The text refers to a headline in The Times published on 3 January 2009. It is a strong indication that the first block was mined no earlier than this date.
- The genesis block has a timestamp of 18:15:05 GMT on 3 January 2009. This block is unlike all other blocks in that it doesn’t have a previous block to reference. This required the use of custom code to mine it. Timestamps for subsequent blocks indicate that Nakamoto did not try to mine all the early blocks solely for himself.
- As the sole, predominant early miner the inventor was awarded bitcoin at genesis and for 10 days afterwards.Except for test transactions these bitcoins remain unspent. The public bitcoin transaction log shows that Nakamoto’s known addresses contain roughly one million bitcoin.
In addition, Satoshi was active in newsgroup postings on bitcoin topics until December 2010 when suddenly all posting stopped. Mysteriously, he apparently made one additional post over three years later on March 6th, 2014 with a simple statement “I am not Dorian Nakamoto.” This appears to be in response to speculation at the time that Dorian Nakamoto was/is the real Satoshi. Something that Dorian Nakamoto has repeatedly denied. Recent research indicates this March 2014 email was likely a spoofed response and not from the real Satoshi.
Since the inception of Bitcoin there has been numerous theories and speculation regarding Satoshi’s real identity. The concept, the white paper, and the technical code he wrote to deliver the network is technically brilliant on many levels. Many speculate that this work could not have been that of a single individual, no matter how brilliant he/she may have been.
Various language analysis seems to indicate the original white paper is in the “voice” of one author… at least according to several experts. Others disagree and opine that their analysis shows it’s the work of two or three authors. Regardless, none of these interpretations could be conclusive in one direction or the other. A single author could have written on behalf of a larger collective to present a consistent singular look and feel. Conversely, a single author could have written different sections at different times and in different mental states thereby appearing to be multiple voices in the paper. The mystery continues…
So who or what is the real Satoshi Nakamoto? Why was this breakthrough innovation released into the “wild,” into the public domain only to ride off in the sunset forever without a word nor coin? Could one person really have created this in relative isolation? Could someone really create something so revolutionary to never be discovered or found out? Could he/she possibly have or had some accident or misfortune and is no longer on earth? There has been numerous inquiries and speculation on this topic with no solid answers existing as of today.
In part two of the series we will explore one thought provoking scenario regarding who could be behind Satoshi Nakamoto and the marvel called bitcoin/blockchain. A speculative yet plausible scenario that could explain the how and why we have bitcoin today.
Look for part II of the series on Monday November 27th for the big reveal! What are your thoughts on who is behind Satoshi Nakamoto?