Satoshi Nakamoto, bitcoin and the added value of mystique

Satoshi Nakamoto is a person known more from the rumor and myths surrounding his life than any actual facts. His story is compelling simply because he’s an anonymous individual in a world where anonymity is a rare thing. After all, the development of the internet and social media ensures that everybody has a record somewhere.

So, who is he?

Satoshi Nakamoto invented bitcoin and the blockchain technology way back in 2008. The cryptocurrency has since grown to become a large part of internet counter-culture, although bitcoin gained a great deal of mainstream exposure with its adoption by Microsoft, Virgin Galactic, and Valve’s Steam platform.

Bitcoin owes much of its early success to the iGaming scene. Websites like vegascasino were some of the first to make the currency part of their business model, abandoning fiat tokens like dollars in favor of Nakamoto’s landmark invention. Vegas Casino continues to operate in Bitcoin to this day and even pays out a 1000mbtc (millibitcoin) bonus to new sign-ups.

Returning to Nakamoto, the figure vanished from the scene in 2010 and hasn’t been seen since. However, that hasn’t stopped the media “unmasking” Nakamoto on several occasions. There has even been at least one person – an Australian, Craig Wright – who put in his own claim to Nakamoto’s name.

There’s no evidence that Nakamoto is even male. It’s actually far more likely that the name is a pseudonym for a group of individuals, especially given that some of the earliest candidates for the mantle of bitcoin’s inventor were a group of three men (Neal Kin, Vladimir Oksman, and Charles Bry) involved in a similar patent application.

One of the most compelling claims of the past few years involves cryptography enthusiast, Nick Szabo, who was mentioned in a book entitled Bitcoin: The Future of Money by author, Dominic Frisby. There’s also the unusual story of Dorian Nakamoto, an elderly Japanese man who ended up in a car chase with the press after being linked with Satoshi.

Value in anonymity

The thing with Satoshi Nakamoto is that anonymity is a big part of Bitcoin’s appeal, and so people involved with cryptocurrency – the likes of Kin, Oksman, Bry, and Szabo – are unlikely to come forward as the inventor on their own. And indeed, none of them have. It’s telling that the one self-declared Nakamoto, Wright, had a PR agency in his pocket; there’s a lot to gain from being Bitcoin’s inventor.

Oddly enough, Gavin Andresen, a scientist at the Bitcoin Foundation, said that he was “98% sure” Wright was Nakamoto in an interview with Quartz. His story quickly unraveled though; the Australian’s “proof” was discovered to be a unique signature used by Nakamoto – one that turned out to have been in the public domain since 2009.

So, while Wright might have had the intelligence to create bitcoin, a point made by Andresen, he’d arguably used his smarts to weave an elaborate hoax. And now, a few months on, the world is still no closer to knowing who (or what) Satoshi Nakamoto is. The worry is that the founder controls $750m in bitcoin, a huge amount of influence for somebody who can’t be found.

With so much money already though, and the frightening level of attention the media gave Dorian Nakamoto, bitcoin’s true inventor arguably has nothing to gain from leaving the shadows.

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