As those of you who work in the blockchain industry have already known, Satoshi Nakamoto is the “founding father” of modern cryptocurrency, with his invention of bitcoin in 2008, in response to the global financial meltdown triggered by the US property bubble.
He wrote a white paper which laid down the foundations for modern cryptocurrency technology; in the same paper he also outlined the results of the tests or demos that he had conducted on bitcoin, and his invention has turned out to work well.
Just a little disclaimer: it might be misleading when I use the word “he” as a pronoun to refer to Nakamoto because in actuality, it is just a pseudonym and nobody has actually met him in person. Therefore, Satoshi Nakamoto might have been a group of people and “they” might even be a woman!
Simply put, a lot of people fall in love with cryptocurrency and decentralized finance thanks to their potent powers in serving as an alternative to the centralized finance system, which is so marred by inequality and power imbalances, as well as prone to crises. The fact that Nakamoto published his white paper soon after the 2008 global financial meltdown has further fueled this kind of almost revolutionary sentiment.
Yet, his increasing popularity has never motivated him to make any public appearance. If anything, since 2011, he has virtually been uncontactable, as his email account has left lots of emails unanswered. This has made so many cryptocurrency fans even more curious about who he could possibly be. Various stories and theories about him keep appearing in the news and backroom gossip.
Currently, there is an Australian computer scientist named Craig Wright who claimed he was Nakamoto, much to the doubts of blockchain practitioners and computer scientists. Taking his coding skills into account, it is impossible for him to be Nakamoto. Yet, Wright insists on getting recognition and acknowledgment for his status as the real Nakamoto, both on a social and legal level.
In 2019, he filed lawsuits against several individuals who refuted his claims to be Nakamoto. Most recently, he has filed a request to the UK Court to have him legally recognized as the inventor of bitcoin, as well as claiming the copyright to bitcoin.
Wright has been the only person who has the audacity to claim that he is Nakamoto, which is funny, considering that several computer scientists who have been believed to be Nakamoto have vehemently denied that they are the men behind bitcoin.
Most misleadingly, if you Google “Satoshi Nakamoto”, it will give you several photographs of an old, bespectacled Japanese guy, as if the person is in fact Nakamoto. Wrong. In actuality, the guy who has become Satoshi’s substitute bitcoin poster boy (in Google, at least) is Japanese-American computer scientist Dorian Nakamoto. Dorian himself has denied that he is Nakamoto.
Okay. Let’s now move on to the American computer scientist Nick Szabo, whose invention of the smart contract in 1994 has transformed the decentralized system. Some people believe that Szabo might have been Nakamoto and yet Szabo has repeatedly denied the claim.
No wonder, the question regarding Nakamoto’s “true identity” has created a bottomless pit on the internet, for those who like browsing and wondering about the man (or the woman or the group) who has created bitcoin.
Economic and political implications
It will be unwise, however, for us to just dismiss the whole “who is Satoshi Nakamoto” brouhaha as merely distraction, hype or useless curiosity. It is for a reason that this whole media circus about him happens.
Nakamoto’s identity carries some economic and political implications.
To begin with, let us start by laying down the economic implications first. As the founder of bitcoin, Nakamoto has some really powerful influence on determining the supply or value of bitcoins, which can potentially exacerbate the already-volatile value of these cryptocurrencies on the decentralized exchange.
Then, to talk about the political relevance of Nakamoto’s identity, we need to take into account the risks taken by individuals who manage to shake the status quo on how the world is being run. Nakamoto has done this by challenging the centralized global financial system, which has (as we’ve discussed earlier) brought inequality and suffering to so many people, yet has also greatly privileged and enriched some segments of the society.
And of course, those who have been privileged and enriched by the current centralized financial system don’t want to lose their power. Which brings us into politics. This is why perhaps Nakamoto has decided to stay above the fray, perhaps for the sake of his own personal safety as well.
Finally, maybe Nakamoto has decided to just remain elusive and stay away from the public limelight in order to stay true to the idea of decentralization. If people come to know his true identity, they can possibly turn him into an icon of a cryptocurrency cult and he himself may finally succumb to the temptation of serving as the central authority of decentralized technology, a possibility which, if happened, kind of cancels the nature and definition of decentralization itself.
There would be one great way to test whether Wright is the real Nakamoto or not: just see whether he is able to sign in using one of the codes used in the bitcoin’s original key when it was first invented in 2008.
But. At the end of the day, no matter if Nakamoto will stay out of reach or finally announce himself to the public, he has left a great legacy for the decentralized finance sector, through his technological architecture, which has proven to work and work well. Hopefully, with the current state of decentralized technology evolution, we can see the technology improving with time, so it can serve more people, bringing more equality and power balance to more individuals across the globe.