I’m convinced that Nick Szabo and Dave Kleiman are the people behind the creation of Bitcoin as “Satoshi Nakamoto.”
Nick Szabo made a post on his site in 2008 asking for interested parties to help him implement a digital currency. I believe Craig Wright (yes, I know lol) enlisted Dave Kleiman and reached out to Szabo to realize his vision. Dave Kleiman died in 2013 and I believe much of the evidence and keys were lost, if not intentionally destroyed.
Why Nick Szabo
- Nick Szabo is a polymath and the inventor of the term “smart contract” and Bitcoin predecessor BitGold. Common sense makes him a strong candidate.
- Bitcoin was very strongly influenced by BitGold, however it is suspiciously not listed as a reference in the Bitcoin whitepaper.
- He very briefly mentions BitCoin [sic, also note the same capitalization as BitGold] in 2009, but doesn’t really cover it in depth until 2011 (where he seems a bit defensive in response to an article). His silence during this period is suspicious, especially since he resumes posting after Satoshi’s last post, which was on December 11, 2010.
- In an email exchange with Hal Finney discussing vanity addresses, Satoshi mentions the Bitcoin address 1NSwywA5Dvuyw89sfs3oLPvLiDNGf48cPD contains his initials. NS = Nick Szabo?
- On the Tim Ferris podcast, Nick accidentally says “…I designed Bitcoi–gold…” at 1:34:20. This one’s more funny than anything.
In short, few people are as qualified to be the guy. He actively sought out people to help him create a digital currency and then a pioneering digital currency appeared months later. Despite this, Nick never released a competing product or even mentioned he was working on one, and didn’t start posting about Bitcoin until after Satoshi went radio silent.
Why Dave Kleiman
- Kleiman was a computer forensics expert, programmer, and privacy “enthusiast.” His expertise put him in the realm of possibility.
- Kleiman died in 2013, having spent the last few years of his life reclusively. It would make sense to me that Satoshi’s keys were lost given the massive wealth in Satoshi’s wallet and lack of communication or digital proofs appearing.
- After Kleiman’s death, his dad posted on Facebook asking for information about Dave’s involvement with Bitcoin.
- Kleiman was an expert in Windows and published forensics papers dealing with Windows. The first Bitcoin client was written for Windows. This was always strange to me given the sentiment against Microsoft in the open source community.
- One of the products he worked on in his career was a “an unalterable, encrypted audit log system.”
- According to friends, Kleiman was a private guy and took security to the max. One friend recalled watching Kleiman routinely enter 40- and 50-character passphrases and was quoted as saying, “If you told me there was a million dollars on Dave’s computer in this room, I wouldn’t even bother trying to look for it,” Paige said. “It would be a waste of time.”
In short, Kleiman had the right skills, and his reclusive lifestyle and security extremism seem to fit the profile of someone who would hide their identity and not profit of the invention of Bitcoin. Also, the idea that keys were lost upon his death seems to make sense in my mind. Given his expertise in Windows software, I believe Dave Kleiman is the author of the majority of the original Bitcoin codebase.
Craig Wright aka Faketoshi? Really?
While Wright has proven to have lied about several things relating to his involvement with Bitcoin, this alone doesn’t rule out his involvement. It’s also true he was involved in the cypherpunk scene at the right time and with the appropriate skills to make it possible he was involved.
Why Craig Wright
- He was a professor of Computer Science and helped designed one of the first online casinos in 1999. Although it’s not clear he was a programmer, his skills and expertise put him in the realm of possibility as well.
- He was a member of the cypherpunk email list as early as 1996.
- Alleged hacked emails sent to Gizmodo between Wright and Kleiman where Wright enlists Kleiman to work on Bitcoin. The email subject is “FW: Defamation and the difficulties of law on the internet”. If you google that exact phrase in quotes, the lone result is a blog post by Wright from 2008 with the same title.
- This guy says Satoshi lives in Sydney and also claims to have helped them build Bitcoin.
- Kleiman and Wright co-authored a paper in 2008 that looks pretty similar to the Bitcoin whitepaper in formatting. That’s not terribly convincing on its own but the fact that they share a history of writing academic-type papers is something.
- Gavin Andreeson claimed “I am convinced beyond a reasonable doubt: Craig Wright is Satoshi,” although later said “It’s certainly possible I was bamboozled.”
- Satoshi used phrases like “bloody” and used British spelling at times (which is also the spelling style used in papers co-authored with Kleiman despite Kleiman being American).
Honorable Mention – Hal Finney
Hal Finney was the first adopter of Bitcoin and the first person on the cypherpunk email list to react positively to Bitcoin. He also had the programming skills and worked on other projects that shared a similar ethos. Hal and Satoshi exchanged emails discussing various ideas about Bitcoin, how it works, and how it could work in the future. This could be a cover for the fact that Hal was involved. Circumstantial evidence makes him a possible candidate but I am not aware of any direct evidence.
So, there you have it. I think Satoshi is Nick Szabo plus Dave Kleiman with Craig Wright being involved on the fringes. It’s also possible this guy was involved, and there is an article that claims an anonymous source from the NSA says Satoshi is actually 4 people. It’s also worth mentioning that there just weren’t that many people involved in that scene around 2008, which means the pool of possible candidates is pretty small. I am not aware of any evidence suggesting point to other parties. Ultimately, I predict the true identities will be proven using advanced machine learning techniques that analyze text for idiosyncrasies, and the truth will become common knowledge.