“I am working on a new entirely peer-to-peer electronic payment system, without trusted third parties. »(Satoshi Nakamoto, October 2008)
Satoshi Nakamoto (he/she/they?) created the first version of Bitcoin in the spring of 2007, which, in retrospect, seems prescient. A year later, the entire global financial system collapsed into a recession, thanks to major investment banks (under the jurisdiction of the Federal Reserve) making irresponsible bets on unsecured mortgages. Bitcoin, which operates outside of a central authority (there is no “bitcoin headquarters”), suddenly seemed like an idea whose time had come.
Satoshi wrote shortly afterwards: “The fundamental problem with conventional money is all the trust needed to make it work. Banks have to be trusted to hold our money and move it electronically, but they lend it out in waves of credit bubbles with barely a fraction in reserve. You can read his 9-page “white paper” introducing Bitcoin here.
But Bitcoin isn’t really the best (enlightened money!) or worst (Ponzi scheme!) of Satoshi’s inventions. Whatever you think of Bitcoin (and its hundreds of imitated currencies), what Satoshi will be remembered for in the future is the block chain, a brilliant way for anyone to communicate, securely and discreetly, with anyone else, without the need for a trusted third party. For example, a single 324 gigabyte blockchain, perfectly copied on tens of thousands of computers around the world, contains the timestamped record of every bitcoin transaction since the first on January 12, 2009 (at 6:15:05 p.m. UT, in case you keep track). Anyone can download it. Learn more about how blockchain works here.
So who is/are Satoshi Nakamoto? Not the hapless retired Japanese-American physicist Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto, who Newsweekfingered in 2014 as being
theSatoshi. It was a case of mistaken identity, and the Bitcoin community rallied, donating $1 million to Dorian for the invasion of his toy train collecting privacy.
And probably none of the other applicants either. In fact, given that Satoshi owns around a million bitcoins (worth $30 billion today), which have sat there, unused, “lost”, for over a decade, it is not maybe more in the land of the living. The last “for sure” communication from him was in April 2011, when an email to a developer friend said, “I’ve moved on.” Since, Nope.
My best guess is that Satoshi died in 2011, shortly after this email and another saying “I probably won’t be around in the future”. Len Sassaman, an American “cypherpunk” genius who committed suicide in Belgium last July, had suffered from depression for some time. We may never know for sure, but enough members of the Bitcoin community believe Len was Satoshi that they erected a fitting memorial to him: a testimonial embedded in Bitcoin’s blockchain.