Bitcoin Boondoggle: Is Founder Satoshi Nakamoto Alive?

Once upon a time, back in 2009, someone named Satoshi Nakamoto invented bitcoin. A couple years later he mysteriously vanished. Many wonder: is Satoshi Nakamoto alive? For years bitcoin was worth next to nothing. It was deemed “nerd money” that no one would ever use. Someone spent 10,0000 of them to buy two Papa John’s pizzas in 2010 (worth $30 USD then, $82 million USD today). Fast forward to 2018 and many institutional investors are keen to accumulate cryptocurrencies, stock exchanges are scrambling to create new bitcoin financial products that appeal to ‘main street’ investors, and major banks are increasingly annoyed. In terms of cultural impact, well I’d be surprised if your dear old mama and dog Rover hadn’t heard of it. But who is the shadowy founder who set all this bitcoin-mania in motion? What’s he doing now?

Satoshi Nakamoto Alive and Rich, or Dead and Rich?

Is Satoshi Nakamoto alive? If so he is a billionaire and one of the richest people on earth. A single computer ‘mined’ the ‘genesis block’ of bitcoin as well as the first 36,000 ‘blocks’ back in 2009, with each block back then rewarding the ‘miner’ with 50 bitcoins. Seeing as Nakamoto is the founder of bitcoin, the computer must have been his. About 63% of the mined amount was never spent. Thus it is estimated that Nakamoto has 1,148,800 bitcoins in various digital wallets. Last December, when bitcoin prices were soaring, the pile was worth an incredible $23 Billion USD. Even after 2018’s bear market slump, it’s still worth $9.4 Billion USD. But none of this money has ever moved. Is it because Nakamoto is simply holding them, or because he has passed away or otherwise been ‘taken out of the picture’? To put this in context, it is estimated that around 25% of all bitcoins have been lost forever. This is due to owners dying, forgetting their passwords, losing their recovery codes, or wiping hard drives on computers that had a few bitcoins just for giggles. Last year, one UK man realized his misplaced bitcoins were worth $75 million USD. Sadly they were trapped on a hard drive buried in a landfill in Newport, South Wales. To quote Jerry Seinfeld, that’s a shame.

 

It’s Satoshi Nakamoto! I mean, it’s Dorian.. Satoshi Nakamoto. Oops.

“Dorian” Satoshi Nakamoto Alive, But Not Correct Nakamoto!

In March 2014, a Newsweek journalist publicly exposed a California man named Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto as the Nakamoto of Bitcoin legend. His exposure was based on investigation of his work as a computer engineer on government classified projects and financial technology, as well as his libertarian tendencies that match the political views of the ‘real’ Sakamoto’s online writing. While initially a major headache, the media circus that enveloped his life for a time ultimately benefited him immensely. The cryptocurrency community rallied to help him with his troubles, ultimately sending him 67 bitcoins. Cashing out this stash in July 2017, he probably netted about $273,000. Not bad! The experience also ignited his interest in bitcoin, and he is now a fixture in the cryptocurrency conference scene. So now we have someone named Satoshi Nakamoto, who is not ‘the’ Satoshi Nakamoto, embracing his mistaken identity and cashing in. Interesting  In another strange twist, Dorian Nakamoto’s home is just a few blocks away from where crypto-enthusiast and computer scientist Hal Finney used to live. Finney received the first bitcoin transaction in history from the ‘real’ Sakamoto in 2009.

So Is Satoshi Nakamoto Alive?

But what about the real Nakamoto? Dead, alive, or some kind of fictional pseudonym  created by a group or a US government agency like DARPA ala Tor? The CIA for one will ‘neither confirm, nor deny’ that it has a file on Nakamoto. There are rumors the NSA may have identified Nakamoto using stylometry, but their information remains classified. Reclusive Hungarian-American academic Nick Szabo, who worked on a digital currency concept called ‘bit gold’ in the late 90s and likes using pseudonyms is another possible candidate. Still, he repeatedly denies being Nakamoto and no conclusive evidence tying him to the pseudonym has been found. It seems we may never know the truth. This is, ladies and gentleman, a real live internet mystery which may never be solved. The fact that the future of currency was initiated by an unknown individual is hard to fathom. Yet it’s true. Australian entrepreneur and imposter Craig Wright tried to make everyone believe he was Nakamoto, and for a few weeks some journalists tried to pump up the falsehood that Elon Musk invented bitcoin. In both cases, claims were quickly proven false. Personally, I think it’s very possibly Nakamoto is Nick Szabo, even if Nick says otherwise. His own bit gold project went silent just before the release of Bitcoin, and the conceptual similarities are hard to ignore. Why didn’t Nick try to compete with Bitcoin? Why did Nakamoto never mention bit gold? We may have to wait awhile on solving this one, but the truth is out there.