Most of us bitcoiners know a thing or two about Satoshi Nakamoto. Some of us admire him. Some of us are afraid of him. But, pretty much all of us are at least a little intrigued.
But for the rest of the world, even among those who’ve heard of Bitcoin, his name doesn’t ring a bell. At some point, when you introduce Bitcoin to friends and family, the subject of Satoshi *must* come up. In fact, the mystery of Satoshi is, dare I say, part of the allure of the whole Crypto culture. As Bitcoin and the blockchain grow to take their place in History, Satoshi will become one of the most important tech figures in the 21st century.
But here’s the problem: how do you boil down the legend of Satoshi Nakamoto into bite-sized chunks that your less informed friends and family can easily take away?
Easy! Just use this list of 5 key facts about Satoshi that we threw together:
1. He created Bitcoin (and the Blockchain)
Way back in the days of dial up modems and Beanie Baby investment portfolios, a group of “smart people” started meeting in the off hours at the offices of Cygnus Solutions in the SF Bay Area. These meetings produced a mailing list known as the Cypherpunks, an informal think tank focused on defeating the ills of society through the magic of cryptography and tech innovation. This mailing list included notables like Bram Cohen, (the creator of Bittorrent) and Julian Assange (Wikileaks co-founder and Ecuador Embassy enthusiast).
More than a decade later (in 2008) amidst the Global Financial Crisis, a new user named – Satoshi Nakamoto appeared. He sent an email to the list that included a link to a paper describing the Bitcoin payment-processing system. The email body contained the paper’s highlights, an abstract, and the following introduction: “I’ve been working on a new electronic cash system that’s fully peer-to-peer, with no trusted third party”. This email started a series of events and collaborations which eventually led to one of the most disruptive technologies of the 21st Century.
2. “He’s” an international man/woman/time wizard of mystery
You would think that creating one of the biggest innovations in the history of networked technology would make Satoshi stand up and take some credit. (Imagine the salary you could get with that on your resume). Yet, Satoshi has kept his identity hidden behind his pseudonym till this day.
Satoshi appeared on the Cypherpunk scene pretty much from thin air. He made the Bitcoin system open source, and worked tirelessly for two years to improve it with a core group of volunteer developers. Yet, during that time, he communicated only via email and online forum posts. No one ever met him in person or so much as heard his voice on the phone.
Then one fateful day in the Spring of 2011, Satoshi announced he would no longer be involved in Bitcoin development. He delivered the message via email to a fellow developer, saying he wished to move on to other things. People in the community were stunned. But just like that, Satoshi Nakamoto disappeared.
Since then, people have speculated at great length about Satoshi’s true identity. Some theories sound plausible. Others (like Bitcoin being the surreptitious brainchild of the CIA/FBI/NSA) are a little more far-fetched. But, only one thing’s for certain: no one knows the whole truth. And if they do, they sure aren’t talking…
3. He’s a visionary and a genius, all rolled into one
We make T-shirts, so what do we know? Maybe it’s better to let these tech titans weigh in on Satoshi’s work:
- “[Bitcoin] is a techno tour de force.” – Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft
- “Bitcoin is a remarkable cryptographic achievement and the ability to create something that is not duplicable in the digital world has enormous value” – Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google
- “Bitcoin is the most important invention in the history of the world since the internet.” – Roger Ver, CEO of MemoryDealers.com, “Bitcoin Jesus”
- “We have elected to put our money and faith in a mathematical framework that is free of politics and human error.” – Tyler Winklevoss, Co-creator of Facebook
- “I gave a talk back in November of ‘99 on […] how encrypted money was going to change the world. I do think bitcoin is the first one of these that has the potential to do something like that.” – Peter Thiel, Co-Founder of Paypal
But don’t just take their word for it. There are also a bunch of Futurists (yes, this is an actual, legitimate job) who analyse global trends and emerging technologies to make educated predictions about the future. These guys put Bitcoin, (more particularly, the blockchain) in the list of the potentially game-changing innovations this side of the 21st century. Just look at this article that pits the blockchain alongside artificial intelligence and the coming glory days of virtual reality.
We’ll get into explaining the blockchain to newbies in a future post. But for now, it’s enough to say that, in order to make a “untamperable and anonymous public ledger of all transactions available across the globe”, you have to be (at bare minimum) a smart fucking cookie.
I’ll end this point with a tweet from Bitcoin veteran Eric Voorhes:
Can we take a moment to reflect on the fact that the Bitcoin protocol STILL hasn't been hacked? One of the greatest comp sci accomplishments
— Erik Voorhees (@ErikVoorhees) May 13, 2015
4. He’s freakin loaded (owns ~ 1 million Bitcoins)
Satoshi Nakamoto is rich. Like…filthy rich. We’re not talking “vacation in the Maldives and drive a Porsche” rich. We’re talking “Captain of Fucking Industry” rich. Satoshi Nakamoto mined what’s known as the “Genesis Block”, and proceeded to be the first prolific miner of Bitcoin. Today, you need a warehouse full of Asic Miners and bucket load of cheap electricity to mine Bitcoin profitably. But in the early days, the “mining difficulty” was very low due to low competition and trade volume. For a while, Satoshi and a handful of his peers processed all the Bitcoin transactions.
His early work netted him an estimated 1M BTC. In the old days, Bitcoin used to be worth next to nothing. But today, well… let’s just say 1 million Bitcoins is some serious Fuck You Money.
5. He hasn’t touched a dime (or satoshi…)
Ok, well, that may not be literally true, but Satoshi’s fortune has remained largely untouched. It could be that he only mined bitcoin out of a sense of duty. After all, someone had to get the system off the ground. He might have given some away to the first developers who worked with him to get them started. But the ridiculously large majority of everything he mined still hasn’t appeared in the blockchain in new transactions. Even during the Bitcoin price boom (when a single coin was valued at nearly 1000 USD), he didn’t cash out a penny.
“Why?” you say.
“That’s a lot of money” you say.
“Treat yourself, Satoshi. Clearly, you’ve earned it.”
But the truth is, no one knows the real reason why his coins remain hidden and unspent. The most likely (and hopelessly optimistic answer) is that Satoshi is some kind of benevolent idealogue: an individual who wants to change the world but has no interest in personal profit.
It’s also possible Satoshi believes that his Bitcoins will be worth far more tomorrow than today. Or, in a darker twist, maybe Satoshi wants to wait to until Bitcoin replaces paper fiat as the dominant world currency, at which point he’ll dump his 1 million coins on the market for next to nothing. This would send the price of Bitcoin into a panicky tail spin and crash the global economy, marking Satoshi as some sort of primordial financial Chaos God who just ushered in the new age of despair.
But at the end of the day, we just don’t know. The only sure thing? Satoshi lives by the old stage axiom: “Always leave them wanting more…”
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