Another day, another Satoshi | Photo: Antana, CC BY-SA 2.0
This week the news broke that Dr. Craig Stephen Wright, a man who had previously been suspected of being the man behind the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, was actually claiming to be Satoshi Nakamoto. But the promised proof never materialized, and now, apparently, there won’t be any. Not that any of this matters a whit.
In an honestly pretty self-pitying message on his website, Wright basically apologized for all the trouble and passive-aggressively blamed everyone for attacking his character when he wouldn’t show proof. Now he claims that he doesn’t “have the courage” to prove he is who he says he is and “put the years of anonymity and hiding behind [him].” Here it is in full:
Of course, he doesn’t have any anonymity now. Everyone knows the name Craig Wright, and at this point most of the Bitcoin community doesn’t think terribly highly of him, at least judging by the online communities I’ve visited.
If you’re looking for my personal opinion on whether Wright is/was Satoshi Nakamoto, I’d say the same thing I’d say if you substituted any other name on the planet for his: there is a simple, trustless way of verifying the identity of any claimant to the title, and until such time as I see it, I don’t believe you. I don’t have any animosity for Wright, though I can’t pretend to understand the frankly peculiar game of hard-to-get he seems to have been playing. I also don’t understand why Satoshi Nakamoto would be unable to easily provide proof.
In his “apology,” Wright writes that his credibility is forever lost and that no-one will believe him now. He’s wrong. If he can sign a message from the genesis block or move coins from one of the earlier blocks, everyone will fall over themselves to apologize for ever doubting him and thank him for creating Bitcoin. People will still think he’s a little odd — why go through all the rigmarole of flying Gavin Andresen and Jon Matonis to London to demonstrate in private something that could be so simply demonstrated by posting a few lines of text on his website? — but proof is proof.
At this point even Gavin isn’t certain anymore. As reported yesterday, Andresen says “it’s certainly possible [he] was bamboozled,” and that he regrets having blogged about it before seeing Wright’s (again, peculiar) blog post “proving” his identity (which shows signs of deliberate falsification). I don’t pretend to understand. Maybe he was part of the original team of people that constituted Satoshi Nakamoto (I do think it was a corporate identity, not an individual) but was not the part of the team that kept the keys to the early blocks. I don’t know. Maybe the keys are lost.
But it also doesn’t matter.
Bitcoin and the technologies it spawned are the point. Who they were invented by is no more interesting to me than whether it was Warren de la Rue, Joseph Swan, Henry Woodward, Matthew Evans, Thomas Edison (and his team of researchers), or William David Coolidge who “invented” the lightbulb. The fact that we could work in the mornings and the evenings and overnight, forever changing human productivity and industry — that’s the important part.
“Satoshi Nakamoto” invented Bitcoin, whoever, or whatever, he, they, or it was. That’s plenty enough for me, and plenty enough for the history books. The rest is a task for treasure hunters and conspiracy theorists.
Unless, of course, Satoshi’s prepared to show the world the simple proof to back up his/her/their claims. Then all bets are off.
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Richard Ford Burley is a human, writer, and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as an editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.