We are all Satoshi Nakamoto, but some of us are more Satoshi than others. The following 10 characters have all been flagged as Bitcoin’s elusive creator on account of similarities with the digital man of mystery. Whether one of these characters is Satoshi himself is a matter for you to decide.
Pros: The Finnish professor is one of the first people to be suggested as Satoshi, in a 2011 New Yorker article. Due to the lack of fevered speculation at the time, which has tainted subsequent attempts to uncover Satoshi, Vili Lehdonvirta’s dox feels purer than the rest. That doesn’t make it any more correct though.
Cons: When questioned by the New Yorker’s writer, the 31-year-old Helsinki Institute for Information Technology researcher explained that he had no cryptography knowledge and his C++ programming was rudimentary.
Fun fact: Vili Lehdonvirta is now an Associate Professor and Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, and a Fellow of the Alan Turing Institute who has written about Bitcoin, most recently in an article titled “Bitcoin isn’t a currency – and unless it becomes one it could be worthless.”
Paul Le Roux
Pros: If Le Roux created Bitcoin, Satoshi is the 21st century’s biggest bad-ass. Encrypted software creation, drug smuggling, pharmaceuticals, gun running, nation building, you name it, Le Roux had a finger in it – and building Bitcoin would have been well within his grasp and megalomaniacal ambition.
Cons: When Satoshi was studiously refining Bitcoin in 2009, Le Roux was already dabbling in drug smuggling gun running and empire building. It seems unlikely that these opposing pursuits would have been compatible. Also, Satoshi always came across as humble in his writings. Le Roux was a power-tripping douchebag who insisted on being called “Boss.”
Fun fact: Le Roux’s online pharmaceutical system circa 2006 is described in “The Mastermind” as follows: “Take one out and another simply slotted into place. The network kept humming on.” Remind you of anything?
Pros: Gavin Andresen is the Bitcoin developer Satoshi handed the reins to upon his departure in 2010. If the two were one and the same, this would be a pretty effective way for Satoshi to check out without ever actually leaving the building. Moreover, according to one stylometry study, Andresen’s writing more closely resembles Satoshi’s than any other candidate.
Cons: In 2016, Andresen became the first of many bitcoiners to be hoodwinked by Craig Wright, after venturing that Wright’s Satoshi claim checked out. Either Andresen was super gullible or he was playing 4D chess to put further distance between himself and his pseudonym.
Fun fact: Gavin Andresen created the first bitcoin faucet in 2010. It dispensed 5 BTC to anyone who visited the site and completed a captcha.
Pros: As the first respondent to Satoshi’s mailing list post announcing Bitcoin, and the recipient of the first bitcoin transaction, Hal Finney epitomizes Bitcoin more than any other known person. Finney saw the long-term potential for Bitcoin just like Satoshi, and could eloquently elucidate a world in which it reigned supreme. Just to add to the body of evidence, Gavin Andresen isn’t the only person whose writing style echoes Satoshi’s: writing analysis experts Juola & Associates claim that Nakamoto’s and Finney’s writings bear the closest resemblance.
Cons: For Satoshi to have essentially conversed with himself and transacted with himself in dealing with Finney doesn’t make sense for a character who went to such lengths to conceal his identity. He would have surely known that Finney would get doxed as him at some point, and thus it seems illogical for Satoshi to have left such an obvious trail of breadcrumbs.
Fun fact: Hal Finney lived two blocks away from Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto, giving rise to theories that the former took his nom de plume from the latter. As one redditor postulated: “Hal and his cypherpunk counterparts intended for this old friendly retired man whose house had been foreclosed by banksters to be the symbolic figure behind the financial renaissance on behalf of all the victims of the modern financial system.”
Pros: Stylometry seems to be an imprecise art given the number of people who have been identified as Satoshi by their writings. Nick Szabo is the third such candidate on this list, but there are way more compelling reasons why he’s likely to be Satoshi, such as the fact that the computer scientist’s “bit gold” is the closest forerunner to Bitcoin. Nick Szabo is more qualified than anyone on this list to have built Bitcoin.
In 2008, Szabo commented in his blog that he was planning to create a live version of bit gold; that this should have manifested, a few months later, as Bitcoin seems credible. Szabo’s excellent blogposts circa 2008 have all the hallmarks of Satoshi. Phrases such as “unforgeable costliness” and shout outs to Hal Finney place Szabo extremely close to Bitcoin’s nucleus.
Cons: Szabo has consistently denied being Satoshi, debunking one such instance in 2014 by writing: “I’m afraid you got it wrong doxing me as Satoshi, but I’m used to it.”
Fun fact: Satoshi’s telling decision not to cite Szabo’s work on bit gold in the Bitcoin whitepaper may be the most compelling evidence of all.
Pros: Born in 1975, the same year Satoshi cites as his DOB, Bram Cohen was playing with “bits” long before Bitcoin. The Bittorrent creator once ran a Usenet site called Bitconjurer.org, where he conversed with the creator of Hashcash, which inspired Bitcoin. Cohen’s prolific blogposts also slowed to a crawl when Satoshi began work on Bitcoin, and he had similar interests to Satoshi, writing about hiding one’s identity online in 2009, and weighing in on digital signatures around the same time. Cohen’s interest in recreational mathematics also makes him a credible Satoshi.
Cons: Cohen’s current project is a “green” cryptocurrency called Chia that he claims to be the “antithesis” of Bitcoin and PoW. It’s hard to imagine Cohen dismissing his former life’s work in this manner.
Fun fact: Cohen has tweeted about Satoshi 10 times over the years, but has never outright denied being him.
Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto
Pros: Aside from sharing the same name as Bitcoin’s creator, there is virtually no reason why Dorian Nakamoto should be Satoshi, except for having lived a few blocks away from the other probable Satoshi, Hal Finney. If anything, though, this would make it more likely that Hal was Satoshi, and borrowed his fellow denizen’s name.
Cons: Dorian may have become the face of Satoshi, but he is certainly not the brain.
Fun fact: Such is his celebrity, Dorian Nakamoto has been booked to appear at blockchain conferences.
Pros: Wright really, really, wants to be Satoshi, and has been larping as him since 2016. You can probably recall feeling the same way about one of your superheroes, wishing you could fall asleep and wake up in their body. In your defense, you were six at the time. Wright is a 48-year-old man.
There is some evidence that Wright was lurking in the shadows not long after Bitcoin got off the ground, but all that proves is that Faketoshi is a chancer who’s built a career out of riding in the slipstream of brighter stars.
Cons: Craig and cons go together like moonshine and mason jars. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but Jameson Lopp’s lengthy takedown of the man who would be Satoshi is a fine jumping off point.
Fun fact: Wright applied to the Australian Defence Force Academy to train as a pilot in 1987 but was rejected.
Pros: Kleiman has been alleged to be a part of the Satoshi Nakamoto group along with fellow Satoshi claimants Craig Wright and Phil Wilson. The latter two have zero credible proof of building Bitcoin, while Kleiman died in 2013. An avid cryptographer, Kleiman was a member of the mailing list where Satoshi first announced Bitcoin on Oct 31, 2008. He also worked for S-doc, an encryption-focused software company that was developing an “unalterable, encrypted audit log system.”
Cons: Any documents associating Kleiman with Bitcoin come courtesy of Craig Wright, and thus are almost certainly fake. As a result there is an absence of credible evidence to suggest that Kleiman created Bitcoin. The fact that Wright has been circling Kleiman’s family like a vulture in a bid to claim his share of an alleged 1 million BTC trust is the strongest evidence that Kleiman created Bitcoin – and Wright didn’t. Had any other member of the cryptography mailing list died first, Wright would have surely set his sights on them instead, as part of a long con to extract millions of dollars through legal chicanery.
Sad fact: Dave Kleiman died in abject poverty and squalor. “His body was found decomposing and surrounded by empty alcohol bottles and a loaded handgun … a bullet hole was found in his mattress, though no spent shell casings were found on the scene.”
An Enduring Mystery That May Never Be Solved
There are many others who’ve been named as Satoshi, including Elon Musk, white supremacist James Bowery and, slightly more credibly, a trio of researchers – Neal King, Vladimir Oksman and Charles Bry. These, along with other suspects, are unlikely to have had a hand in the creation of Bitcoin however. For anyone interested in trying to crack the case, Satoshi’s writings, amounting to 80,000 words, can be viewed at the Nakamoto Studies Institute. Be prepared to tumble down a rabbit hole of late night Google searches and stylometry only to emerge no closer to the truth.
Most people who are hung up on the enigma of who Satoshi is or was would concede that it would be best for Bitcoin if his identity was never discovered. And yet they cannot resist searching for, to quote Albert Einstein, “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence.”
Who do you think is the likeliest candidate for Satoshi Nakamoto? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock.
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Kai’s been playing with words for a living since 2009 and bought his first bitcoin at $12. It’s long gone. He’s previously written white papers for blockchain startups and is especially interested in P2P exchanges and DNMs.