Searching for Satoshi
"I am not Dorian Nakamoto."
Searching for Satoshi
“I am not Dorian Nakamoto.”
On March 7, 2014, Satoshi Nakamoto resurfaced after years of silence.
The creator of bitcoin sent a reply to a BitcoinTalk Forum post he first started in 2009. His reply was a short sentence that read “I am not Dorian Nakamoto.”
Less than two months after the infamous cryptocurrency exchange Mt. Gox filed for bankruptcy, another major bitcoin-related story was overtaking the news cycle. A Newsweek article by Leah McGrath Goodman claimed to have discovered the true identity of bitcoin’s creator, Satoshi Nakamoto. According to the article, titled “The Face Behind Bitcoin,” Nakamoto was a middle-aged man living in Temple City, California. The man’s full name was Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto and, in recent years, he went by Dorian S. Nakamoto.
The story presented in Newsweek was plausible given what was known about the infamous bitcoin creator. One notable coincidence that surfaced in the weeks following the story was that Hal Finney, the developer who received the first ever bitcoin transaction from Satoshi, lived just blocks away from the man Newsweek claimed to be Satoshi. Of all the places in the world where Satoshi could live, could he really be neighbors with Finney? A town of 39,000 people in California? What were the odds that two of the most influential people in bitcoin lived within minutes of one another? Journalist Andy Greenberg covered bitcoin topics over the years and contacted Finney in the days after the Newsweek story broke.
Greenberg visited Finney in his home, now in the final months of his life due to complications with ALS. When Greenberg lightheartedly asked him about Dorian Nakamoto, Finney managed a smile, something that was difficult to do for someone in his condition.
Ultimately though, Greenberg came to the conclusion that most did after the Newsweek chaos subdued; that Dorian Nakamoto was not Satoshi Nakamoto. He wondered, however, if perhaps Finney could be…
The former PGP developer and early bitcoin collaborator maintained that he was not Satoshi. His final post to the BitcoinTalk Forum further spoke to this and he and his wife reiterated as much to Greenberg. The coincidence of a man named Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto living down the street from Finney was just that, a coincidence. Finney’s wife Fran said that “For all Hal knew, Satoshi Nakamoto could have been next door, or he could have been in Japan." It held true to what was previously maintained by Finney and others like Gavin Andresen and Adam Back; that they never had physical or real-time contact with Satoshi. All communication was done over email, forum posts, or through direct messages. They may have had their own theories about Satoshi’s identity but they were just theories. Early bitcoiners knew about as much as the public about Satoshi which was next to nothing.
Dorian Nakamoto was born in Beppu, Japan in 1949. Ten years later, Nakamoto’s parents divorced and his mother emigrated to the United States, taking Nakamoto and his two brothers with her. They settled in California and Nakamoto would ultimately attend California State Polytechnic University to study physics.
His career after college included engineering work on defense contracts around electronics and communication. Nakamoto’s skill set aligned with someone who could be the creator of bitcoin. He was also relatively reclusive in nature and libertarian-minded, traits displayed in other early bitcoiners and cypherpunks.
Nakamoto’s children described him as wary of the government and anyone in authority. His brothers described him, while referencing his programming abilities, as brilliant. When confronted by the press in his driveway on March 19, 2014 though, Nakamoto said about bitcoin, "I am no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it. It's been turned over to other people. They are in charge of it now. I no longer have any connection."
On paper, the story read as though the mystery behind the true identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of bitcoin, was solved. When watching videos documented by journalists of the encounters with Nakamoto in his driveway and of him later at a free lunch with the Associated Press, the mystery looked as though it might instead have just gotten more complicated…
Nakamoto contradicted himself at times. He spoke off the cuff when prompted by questions about bitcoin from reporters. He was dismissive and distant in his replies, not answering much directly.
Days later, Nakamoto would clarify his remarks. He was unhappy with how the encounter was portrayed publicly.
He was emphatic that he was never involved in bitcoin, stating that, “I’m saying I’m no longer in engineering. That’s it. And even if I was, when we get hired, you have to sign this document, contract saying you will not reveal anything we divulge during and after employment. So that’s what I implied. It sounded like I was involved before with bitcoin and looked like I’m not involved now. That’s not what I meant. I want to clarify that.” His corrective statement marked a confusing ending to an odd event in bitcoin’s history, leaving many onlookers unsatisfied.
Meanwhile, as news outlets everywhere were picking up the story and doing their best to tell the public what bitcoin was and why the identity of its creator was something they should care about, the reply from Satoshi claiming that he was not Dorian hit the BitcoinTalk Forum.
The mystery continued…
Today, we still don’t know who Satoshi Nakamoto is or was. It doesn’t matter though. Bitcoin has become so widespread that its network rivals that of some countries and many of the largest companies in the world. At its peak, the total market capitalization of bitcoin topped $1 trillion.
Satoshi disappeared into cyberspace but his creation lives on, processing transactions for anyone, anywhere in the world, one block at a time.
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