Has Bitcoin Creator Satoshi Nakamoto Resurfaced?
Is it another case of surreptitious Satoshi Nakamoto fan-fiction, or the actual Bitcoin creator? That’s the question the cryptoverse is once again mulling over after a website registration, a cryptogram, and an excerpt from a “literary work” have materialized from someone purporting to be Satoshi Nakamoto. No hard proof was provided, but the excerpt does suggest its author has a deep knowledge of Bitcoin’s early history. Numerous questions have surfaced accordingly.
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Is … That You … Satoshi?
Friday, June 29th, saw yet another claimed Satoshi Nakamoto reappearance, as a “Nakamoto Family Foundation” website registration, a “literary” excerpt, and a cryptogram have surfaced from someone claiming to be the much-conjectured, and seemlingly long-gone, Bitcoin creator.
Nakamoto surfacing? #bitcoin
— Matt Leising (@mattleising) June 30, 2018
The website in question was first registered on June 26th, 2018. First publicly declared three days later, the site announces “a literary work consisting of two parts” and provides a link to a 21-page pdf file entitled Duality: an Excerpt, wherein a cursory but provocative history of Bitcoin is provided from the alleged vantage point of Satoshi Nakamoto.
The author, who noted more than once that the two-part work might never materialize, said they would be using the site — registered to the address of [email protected] — to provide updates as their work potentially progressed:
“The excerpt is provided. I wanted to include it as a brief glimpse of history. Even for those that can’t read the full book, I wanted to make this available to everyone. A short story if you will, with some of the most brought up questions and answers. I wanted the people and the facts to be known. Or as much of it. I’m still saving most for the books, the best parts hopefully. It’s currently just a possibility for now. In the meantime the excerpt is included.
Links with information about the book (if it comes to frution) will be posted here on this site in the coming month. Names to both are in this puzzle to solve, for those who want spoilers head down to the excerpt: cryptopuzzle.”
As far as the cryptogram went, it revealed two titles for the two parts of the alleged work: “honne” and “tatamae,” which, from the Japanese, equate to “mask” and “true self” in English.
So what about this excerpt, then?
Beginning to Dig Into Duality
The first words of the excerpt say, clearly referencing Bitcoin, “It was inevitable.”
The next line is a citation of the now almost mythical message encoded in Bitcoin’s genesis block, “The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks.”
The purported Satoshi then began:
“I think the question that is most often brought up about bitcoin, is why. Why was it created at all? And the answer, as plainly visible as anyone could see, I embedded in the coinbase of the first genesis block.
In creating bitcoin, much thought went into how to integrate already existing ideas from the cypherpunk community. Ideas proposed by individuals like Adam Back, Wei Dai, David Chaum, and Hal Finney.
David Chaum preceded me by almost twenty years, but with his paper Untraceable Electronic Cash he explored the possibility of anonymous transactions using a number of cryptographic protocols. Its inherent flaw however, was that it was centralized. And like all things, people can lose trust in something that is controlled by one authority.
Still, it paved the way in showing us (as in cypherpunks) at least that anonymous transactions were possible.”
Then, the author seemingly gave away an autobiographical clue — they’d supposedly begun diving into the cypherpunk community at the age of 14:
“The principles for bitcoin originated from the cypherpunks, a community I naturally gravitated to as a fourteen year old, a place where anonymity was as fundamental as breathing, where in order for genuine freedom of speech.”
‘Satoshi’ a Fake Name, Clarifies Unverified Satoshi
The author alleges there’s no hidden meaning behind the infamous moniker, only that they were going for a vanilla, unrevealing pseudonym:
“I wanted the most common name, which I knew no one outside of Japan had any recollection that Satoshi Nakamoto, was the equivalent of ‘John Smith.’
It took time for the public to come to this conclusion, but most with direct access to me had figured it out long ago.”
It Was Timechain Originally, Not Blockchain
Semantics, semantics. But the supposed Satoshi said that what we have come to call as “blockchain” today was originally thought of as a “timechain.” Also, the self-described Satoshi said “forks” were originally thought of as “branch points”:
“I don’t think anyone knows this, but the word blockchain did not come into play until after the fact. Prebitcoin, it was referred to as, the timechain. That is because it wasn’t about the blocks in the beginning, but rather about time, specifically the precise intervals of time upon which the blocks were released. Before they became hardcoded to the rest of the chain. In the finalized version, version 2, this was changed to blockchain as it became more obvious to me that blocks were the underlying element linked in the chain, not only through time. That is how the public would perceive it at least. You see, Bitcoin, the one you see, the one you have bought or sold coins from, is actually, version 2. Similarly, the word fork didn’t come into play until after the fact either, prebitcoin this was called the branch point.”
On Moore’s Law
Regarding Moore’s Law, the theory that computers’ processing power doubles every two years, the purported Satoshi said they had been proven wrong:
“In referring back to Moore’s Law, I really did believe that computers would be equipped with hardware that by the time I write this, would be a 100 times faster than it was ten years ago. I was wrong.
In truth, hardware did not advance as quickly as I had anticipated and actually did me a disservice. I learned then to not speculate about the future. Because you usually get it wrong.
Mike [Hearn, early Bitcoin contributor] was one of the few individuals who saw the likelihood of ASICS (application specific integrated circuits) and he had smartly anticipated the possibility, as did I, of specialized hardware eventually being used to mine for bitcoins. ASICS by definition are custom chips built for one singular purpose, in this case, to mine for bitcoins. Early on at least, I wanted it to be possible for anyone using a standard PC to mine for bitcoins. But as I soon realized, people already had begun to find ways to game the system by using specialized hardware. Still though, for the better part of a year, I was mostly the only one using the network on a consistent basis, mining the coins myself.”
If Bitcoin Goes Big, Will Not ‘Need to Depend on Transaction Fees’
As the excerpt progressed, the purported Satoshi wrote that fees could “someday cease to be used as an incentive”:
“At some point, it is probable bitcoin will not need to depend on transaction fees at all. Fees could someday cease to be used as an incentive. Much like the US dollar is used by over 60% of the worlds population, it all boils down to one thing–trust. If you replaced the US dollar with the Yen or the Pound tomorrow, it would only mean that people trust it more, and will use it for that reason. The same could happen with bitcoin. If it becomes popular enough, it too has the same potential to be considered a widely used, adopted, and trusted form of currency.”
Claimed Autobiographical Clues
In the decade since the Bitcoin whitepaper’s publication, the author said they’ve observed their personal writing style change. They also noted they were a “twenty something” during the original cryptocurrency’s formation:
“(I must admit though, that I notice my style of writing has changed slightly in the years since..I don’t double space like before, I also notice that I take myself much less serious now, probably attributed to age. Trying as a twenty something to appear older than what you are in a community that counts age as experience in order to throw people off and get them to accept your work, while trying to push
something you so strongly believe in, oh the things you’ll do in order to be taken more serious…)”
The self-described Satoshi also claimed to have been a “university researcher working out of a lab” and that the timestamps of his online writings betrayed his location in the United States’ Eastern Time Zone:
“Other clues could not be ignored. For the first year, I had ran the network from my own computers (I also was a university researcher working out of a lab at the time–I might explain further in the future) which meant I needed anonymizing software to mask my location, but even with all these protective layers, I had neglected one simple fact.
When I set up for the public announcement of bitcoin, I took these preemptive measures to mask my location, but even with all of these measures in place, I did not account for one thing that could give my location away, timestamps. Some were intuitive enough to graph together the hours in which I would post on the forums and commit to the repository and formed a literal ‘map’ of when I was awake and when I was asleep (disturbing to say the least), a graph which placed my sleeping habits between the hours of 1 am to 7 am. The timing of sleeping patterns then correlated on weekends. It was then clear to see, that I must be located somewhere on the east coast (unless of course, I were a night owl). This meant that Satoshi could be anyone on the eastern time zone which comprised the most populated coastal area of the US, or one out of 112,642,503 individuals, roughly.”
Another possible clue was that the writer said his mother was “an author” and had “inspired me to share this glimpse”:
“My mother who is an author (albeit small circulation–and who indirectly inspired me to share this glimpse of time) is the one responsible for my style of writing. I got my punctuation from her, as she not only took it upon herself to teach me how to read, but also how to write. I also came from a family where my Grandmother had started a small publishing “company” (really consisting solely of her and my mother), and my idea of fun at an early age was finding mistakes and errors in words. It is by no coincidence then that I gravitated towards spelling, going so far as to become the spelling bee runner up in the fourth grade. It may seem silly to some, but this is something I still take great honor in. And although I never followed through on this, I still take joy in finding mistakes, be it in code or in writing.”
The author went on to make their case for why they coded the Bitcoin software in the C++ programming language:
“You see, bitcoin had to be resilient to all forms of attacks, as it had a large attack perimeter. As it was open to the internet, it had to carry a strong requirement for consistency. C++ provided that. It meant a firm control over memory usage, which meant that a security critical application like bitcoin that is directly exposed to the internet could still provide reliability to local clients while communicating with a large number of untrusted endpoints. This required keeping a firm control over resources like memory, which C++ made a good job of. Unlike other programming languages, C++ offered consistent control over memory usage while also optimizing for speed and performance.”
Homage to Hal Finney
The excerpt concluded with the author paying special respects to Hal Finney, the legendary computer scientist who helped Satoshi Nakamoto keep the Bitcoin network online during its earliest days:
“Most don’t know but it was Hal who really kept bitcoin going the first few days, and what with his one sole node receiving incoming connections which was the main if not sole thing keeping the network
going the first day or two. Was it not for Hal, I don’t know what I would have done in those first few days.
To this day, I still think about how good of a person Hal was and how if it wasn’t for him, bitcoin would have not succeeded the way it did. When I had no support, when it was just me, Hal was the only one other person who believed in what I was trying to do. If any one person should receive credit for bitcoin and its initial success, it is him. Hal sadly passed away in August 2014 to a debilitating illness, ALS. But until the very end, Hal kept up the fight and was as happy as one could be despite the odds. He was aware of his own mortality and accepted the time he had left as a virtue.”
Real? A Marketing Stunt? What Gives?
The narrative of the latest Satoshi Nakamoto claimant is sure to spurn debate in the cryptoverse. Superficially speaking, the writing style in Duality does seem to match the tone and syntax found in the early writings of Satoshi. And the breadth of knowledge espoused in the excerpt is certain to convince some.
However, reason for healthy skepticism does remain, namely over the author’s apparent site registration with Amazon Registrar, Inc.
On pages 11 and 12 of the excerpt, the author goes into detail about how they went to great lengths to maintain their anonymity when they were registering the original Bitcoin websites all those years ago.
That doesn’t quite jive with the current registration of nakamotofamilyfoundation.org, insofar as Amazon requires a considerable amount of information to buy hosting from them. Even in using the Whois Privacy Service, Amazon would still know the details of the registrant, simply denying to reveal them publicly. And that’s not to mention that such privacy services comply with the government when pressed.
If this Satoshi is real, then, they presumably faked all of their registration information. Likewise, if the registration information wasn’t faked, doubts fairly arise from the fact that the real Satoshi wouldn’t put themselves at the mercy of Amazon and the U.S. government. A marketing stunt might be in play if so.
Another compounding factor that adds another peripheral wrinkle to the episode is Dr. Craig Wright’s recent declaration that he’d be “undeleting” his old work. Of course, Dr. Wright declared himself as Satoshi Nakamoto back in 2016.
There’s no apparent connection between Dr. Wright’s “undeletion” claim and Duality. Indeed, if the Duality timeline is accurate, then the real Satoshi Nakamoto is likely in his early 30s, whereas Dr. Wright is currently 47.
In the very least, though, there’s multiple Satoshi claimants in the ether. What happens from here is anyone’s guess for now.
What’s your take? Is the Duality author a Faux-toshi, or the real Nakamoto? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Images via Arcane Blockchain Gains, Pixabay