Who is Satoshi?
This explainer piece will discuss the legend of Satoshi Nakamoto; the founder and mysterious creator of Bitcoin. It provides a quick intro to the beginnings of the Bitcoin universe. But who is Satoshi Nakamoto? Satoshi is an unknown person or group of people responsible for inventing Bitcoin, making its debut on October 31st, 2008 with the Bitcoin whitepaper on the first purely peer-to-peer cash system.
The release of the Bitcoin whitepaper sparked a revolution by challenging the very concept of what money is. Dismayed by the current state of world affairs, Satoshi argues that these four points make Bitcoin a better alternative to government-backed fiat currency:
1. Removing the third party
Satoshi discusses the benefits of a completely peer-to-peer transaction process and removing trust from any kind of third party. This is the beginning of the people-powered currency that would become the Bitcoin revolution. “What is needed is an electronic payment system based on cryptographic proof instead of trust, allowing any two willing parties to transact directly with each other without the need for a trusted third party.” (page 1)
2. The timestamp
In order for this peer-to-peer system to function, Satoshi posed the idea of “timestamping”. Now better known as the Blockchain, this concept of the timestamp ensures a permanent, legitimate and chronological record of all transactions. “The timestamp proves that the data must have existed at the time, obviously, in order to get into the hash. Each timestamp includes the previous timestamp in its hash, forming a chain, with each additional timestamp reinforcing the ones before it.” (page 2)
3. Incentive to mine
Another key point in this white paper is Satoshi’s discussion about incentives to mine the bitcoin within the blockchain network. Satoshi saw this as a way to sustain the network and maintain the production of bitcoin, a crucial component in a system that does not have a central authority to distribute the currency. “By convention, the first transaction in a block is a special transaction that starts a new coin owned by the creator of the block. This adds an incentive for nodes to support the network, and provides a way to initially distribute coins into circulation, since there is no central authority to issue them.” (page 4)
Despite its very public, peer-to-peer nature, Satoshi’s system enables extreme privacy for users. This privacy comes in the form of anonymous ‘keys’, now more commonly known as private keys, that maintain the anonymity of each transaction on the blockchain. “The public can see that someone is sending an amount to someone else, but without information linking the transaction to anyone. This is similar to the level of information released by stock exchanges, where the time and size of individual trades, the “tape”, is made public, but without telling who the parties were.”
Satoshi and the Crypto Community
How did Satoshi’s revolutionary whitepaper become so popular? Perhaps it was Satoshi’s interaction on crypto forums at the time, as they engaged with the community who were excited by his thinking. Or was it because Satoshi stood for a completely decentralised network and showed confidence in its success? Satoshi explains that Bitcoin is empowered by its differences from other digital currencies. He comments that: “A lot of people automatically dismiss e-currency as a lost cause because of all the companies that failed since the 1990
’s. I hope it’s obvious it is only the centrally controlled nature of those systems that doomed them. I think this is the first time we’re trying a decentralised, non-trust-based system.”
The Hunt for Satoshi
After the person or group behind Satoshi suddenly disappeared, rumours began to swirl. Satoshi deleted their forum posts, emails and comments, shrinking their online presence down to nothing. Inevitably this has sparked intense mystery and speculation within the crypto community. For now though, the hunt for Satoshi continues. Satoshi’s legendary status has invited hoaxes and fraudsters to take the mantle for themselves. Many individuals have ‘revealed’ themselves as the true Satoshi, while failing to produce evidence of these claims. The list includes Nick Szabo – a computer scientist, a legal scholar and a legend within the crypto universe. Szabo’s blog Unenumerated features all things crypto, from bitcoin to Bit Gold. The concept of Bit Gold is a precursor to Bitcoin. Both were announced in late 2008, and Szabo is still suspected to be the real Satoshi. Closer to home, is another self-proclaimed candidate, Craig Wright, although this is quite absurd as he has not been able to produce any evidence to back this up.
What does this mean for Bitcoin?
Satoshi Nakamoto embodies what this currency is all about. Bitcoin’s decentralisation and anonymity makes it just like its founder. And that’s how it works best! Satoshi has become a figurehead for the ungoverned currency and a reminder of how Bitcoin came to be. Satoshi’s legacy lives on in the modern incarnation of his brainchild. This is greatly due to the legacy of Satoshi’s initial whitepaper; detailed yet clear enough to still serve as a manual for Bitcoin and cryptocurrency.