Who Is Satoshi Nakamoto?

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Contributor, Benzinga
February 28, 2022

The visionary minds behind the world’s greatest inventions have long been a subject of fascination among a wide base of people, irrespective of how their ideas and innovations have impacted society, and for good reason. The nationalities, beliefs and general quirks of these individuals are sometimes emblematic of what they contribute to the world but are also sometimes superimposed on these creations in counterproductive ways. 

Bitcoin, generally regarded as the prototypical cryptocurrency, adds another layer of intrigue to this situation, by virtue of its creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, being entirely pseudonymous. With how massively influential Bitcoin’s whitepaper and reference documentation have been to other blockchains, cryptocurrencies and the world’s financial system at large, some even theorize that Satoshi Nakamoto might have been a collective of people or that they might have intended their pivotal work to be a final contribution to the world, especially since there’s been total radio silence from Satoshi since 2010.

With Satoshi holding 1 million Bitcoin (out of the 21 million total supply cap), interested parties also identify a rational element to seeking out their identity, as any movement of Satoshi’s holdings could drastically affect the market’s perception of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies as a whole. Let’s weigh in on some of the internet’s most likely candidates and some of the potential implications of Satoshi’s identity.

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Is Charlie Lee Satoshi Nakamoto?

Charlie Lee is the creator of Litecoin, which was one of the earliest altcoins established as Bitcoin grew. By virtue of Litecoin being similar in implementation to Bitcoin and a few other interesting happenings involving a supposed MIT Litecoin project, some people believed Charlie Lee to be Satoshi in 2017. Lee responded to these theories in a joking manner on Twitter, to the point where his Twitter handle is still SatoshiLite. Despite this, he has concretely and consistently refuted any claims that he is Satoshi Nakamoto. 

If he were to be Satoshi, Litecoin would likely increase in value significantly (despite Lee having publicly sold off his LTC holdings so as to avoid any conflicts of interest) and would likely be more closely tied to the value of BTC, with the two ecosystems becoming more tightly integrated in a functional sense.

Is Dorian Nakamoto Satoshi Nakamoto?

In March 2014, Newsweek claimed that Japanese engineer Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto was actually Satoshi Nakamoto, essentially using the shared names and nationality as the sole kernel of substantive proof. Dorian Nakamoto, a former engineer on defense projects residing in California, vehemently claimed no relation to Bitcoin and had his privacy invaded in the midst of this episode and received 100 BTC from the community as an apology of sorts.

Was Hal Finney Satoshi Nakamoto?

The late Hal Finney was a computer scientist closely affiliated with the PGP Corporation and several classic video games like Tron. As a well-known “cypherpunk,” he was an early adopter of Bitcoin, actually being the recipient of the first Bitcoin transaction from Satoshi. He also lived near Dorian Nakamoto, which lends some credence to using his neighbor as a “drop” identity of sorts.

He vehemently denied being Satoshi and tragically passed away from ALS in 2014, working on Bitcoin adjacent projects until his death. If Finney was Satoshi and didn’t have any contingency plans for his BTC holdings (which is especially unlikely given his prolonged battle with ALS), then his holdings can essentially be removed from the 21 million maximum BTC supply.

Is Nick Szabo Satoshi Nakamoto?

Computer engineer Nick Szabo was first linked to Bitcoin’s whitepaper through linguistic analyses and references to the economist Carl Menger in late 2013. Furthermore, he pioneered the concept of smart contracts in the late 1990s and conceptualized a precursor to Bitcoin called Bitgold. While Szabo, an empirical user of pseudonyms in the 1990s, has politely denied being Satoshi numerous times, he concedes to being a direct influence to many of the ideas underlying Bitcoin. 

Is Craig Wright Satoshi Nakamoto?

Australian computer scientist Craig Wright has publicly claimed to be Satoshi numerous times, claiming to have created Bitcoin with the late Hal Finney and the late Dave Kleiman. There’s some dubiously conclusive cryptographic proof of this, including a purported hacker who broke into Wright's email accounts, claiming that Satoshi Nakamoto was a joint pseudonym for Craig Wright and Kleiman. There’s been some legal trouble in the past between Wright and Kleiman’s estate, which vaguely proves Wright’s claims. Wright has been using libel law against people who’ve refuted his claims, leaving conclusions regarding Craig Wright as an exercise for the reader.

Is Adam Back Satoshi Nakamoto?

British cypherpunk and Blockstream CEO Adam Back is another possible candidate for Satoshi’s identity, having designed Hashcash, a Bitcoin predecessor in the late 1990s. Back was supposedly one of the first two people to receive an email from Satoshi before Bitcoin’s whitepaper was formally published. Interestingly, Back was actually one of the folks sued by Craig Wright for claiming that Wright wasn’t Satoshi. Back tweeted in April 2019: “Satoshi staying anonymous is a #Bitcoin feature. If I had logs which narrowed the anonymity set towards Satoshi's identity, I would delete/shred them.”

Will Satoshi Nakamoto Ever be Revealed?

Based on the harassment that some folks have received for potentially being Satoshi, it’s pretty unlikely that Satoshi definitively reveals themself at this point in time. Satoshi’s anonymity also allows Bitcoin to be divorced from dividing factors like nationality, political beliefs or ideologies, which is crucial to the possibility of it being adopted internationally. All this being said, Ethereum’s Vitalik Buterin being a public identity shows us in some sense what a world with a known Satoshi might look like. 

The timeline of radio silence and the importance of Bitcoin does make the death of Satoshi seem possible in some sense, but there’s really no way to know at this point. However, with the quality and intricacy of Bitcoin’s initial codebase and the Satoshi emails between Hal Finney, Adam Back, and others, it’s certainly possible that Satoshi is a group of people. 

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