The identity of Satoshi Nakamoto continues to be one of the great mysteries of the crypto space. There will likely never be a confirmed answer, and it probably doesn’t really matter who Satoshi is, but I have compiled my research below that led me to believe that Nick Szabo is Satoshi Nakamoto.

Nick Szabo is a mastermind of computer science, law, and economics. He was the inventor of Bit gold, which was a pre-bitcoin cryptocurrency project most akin to Bitcoin. Szabo was part of a community known as the Cypherpunks, which was an online group of digital privacy supporters, and like most Cypherpunks, Szabo was a libertarian. Many ideas about private digital cash circulated around the Cypherpunk community in the 1990s and although none of those ideas took off, Bitcoin would later prove to be the combination of many of the concepts presented in these unrealized ideas.

After the Cypherpunks fizzled out, Szabo became less vocal online. Szabo then suddenly returned to the scene in 2008, a few months before Satoshi became active, constantly discussing the need for a new monetary system using digital money. During this time, he also introduced the idea of the “Smart Contract” which would later become a significant part of the Bitcoin software [1].

Let’s start with something quite peculiar. When creating a screen name for yourself, it is likely to be inspired by your own name or interests. Nick Szabo’s initials (NS) are a simple transposition of Satoshi Nakamoto’s initials (SN). Satoshi Nakamoto is essentially the “John Smith” of Japanese names [2], so I doubt it took too long for Szabo to decide that Satoshi Nakamoto would work as the perfect anonymous identity. Also, while I am on the topic of names, I think Coinbase gave us a hint recently when they chose to disclose the potential release of 5 new cryptocurrencies which spell the acronym SZABO:

S(teller Lumens)

Z(Cash)

A(DA)

B(AT)

0(x)

That isn’t enough evidence of course, so I follow this with similarities in the two’s writing styles. These similarities were compiled by an unknown blogger on a site called “Like In A Mirror” which was seemingly created for the sole purpose of publishing their findings on the Szabo-Satoshi similarities. “Like In A Mirror” analyzed many posts by Satoshi and Szabo and shares that the two share multiple writing similarities such as [3]:

-Repeated use of “of course” without isolating commas, contrary to convention (“the problem of course is”)

-Expression “can be characterized”, frequent in Nick’s blog “Unenumerated”

-Use of “for our purposes” when describing hypotheses

-Starting sentences with “It should be noted”

-Use of “preclude”

-Expression “a level of “ + noun  (“achieves a level of privacy by…”) as a standalone qualifier

-Expression “timestamp server”, central in the Bitcoin paper, used in Nick’s blog as early as January 2006

-Repeated use of expression “trusted third party”

-Expressions “cryptographic proof” and “digital signatures”

-Repeated use of “timestamp” as a verb

Furthermore, “Like In A Mirror” utilized Google Scholar in compiling data about word length and character frequency in the writings of Satoshi and Szabo and came up with the following data. Then, they used the same tests against other supposed Satoshi candidates [3] (Note: Smaller numbers represent more similar histograms):

Word length distribution

  1. Diff Nick Szabo / Bitcoin: 0.160
  2. Diff Wei Dai / Bitcoin: 0.241
  3. Diff David Chaum / Bitcoin: 0.257
  4. Diff Adam Back / Bitcoin: 0.337
  5. Diff Hal Finney / Bitcoin: 0.510

 

Character frequency distribution

  1. Diff Nick Szabo / Bitcoin: 0.191
  2. Diff Wei Dai / Bitcoin: 0.208
  3. Diff David Chaum / Bitcoin: 0.228
  4. Diff Hal Finney / Bitcoin: 0.284
  5. Diff Adam Back / Bitcoin: 0.342

 

These writing similarities are very significant to matching an online identity with a real person, because while it is easy to disguise your name and location to stay anonymous, it is way more difficult to change how you write, and this probably was not even a consideration of Satoshi in retaining anonymity.

Next, I would like to explain that it is very suspicious that Satoshi never mentioned Szabo’s “Bit gold” in his research, yet Satoshi referenced many of the references contained in “Bit gold” writings. Furthermore, Szabo went mostly silent during the time that Satoshi was corresponding about Bitcoin. This change happened shortly after Szabo posted the following in 2008:

“[bit gold] would greatly benefit from a demonstration, an experimental market (with e.g. a trusted third party substituted for the complex security that would be needed for a real system). Anybody want to help me code one up?” [4]

Shortly after the release of the Bitcoin whitepaper, Szabo suspiciously changed the dates of his Bit gold discussions to make it seem like they were discussed after the release of Bitcoin [2].

Given this evidence, I think Nick Szabo is most likely Satoshi Nakamoto, the two’s mannerisms, interests, and the timing of it all make him by far the most likely candidate. I don’t care that he denied it, that’s for his own good and I wouldn’t want to announce that I was Satoshi either.

To the argument that Satoshi was Japanese and was living in Japan: Yes, Satoshi Nakamoto is a Japanese name but the time stamps of Satoshi’s correspondence suggest that Satoshi was in the United States, and further analysis suggests that Satoshi was in the Eastern Standard Time time zone (EST), which is where Nick Szabo was located during the time [3].

It is unlikely that the real Satoshi Nakamoto ever wants to expose themselves due to the unnecessary amount of media attention it would bring, not to mention he accrued about one million Bitcoins and that alone could make him a target. A perfect example of what would happen to an individual who was thought to be Satoshi was provided in March 2014 when Newsweek had a cover article claiming that a man named Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto living in suburban LA was Satoshi. Dorian Nakamoto’s house was quickly surrounded by news reporters, and he was harassed throughout the day about Bitcoin while admitting he knew nothing about it, sometimes calling it “Bitcom.” Dorian Nakamoto’s English was also far less sophisticated than Satoshi’s, as evidenced by multiple Amazon reviews that Dorian has written [2].

As for the other contenders for Satoshi’s real identity, I fail to believe that any of them are the real Satoshi given the overwhelming evidence that it is Nick Szabo. Craig Wright, who constantly claims that he is Satoshi Nakamoto, would have proved it by now due to his large ego. As for Satoshi being made up by the NSA (Satoshi Nakamoto loosely translates to “Central Intelligence” in Japanese) that would be very interesting and difficult to disprove, but I find it hard to believe that the government would create and publish a monetary system that could undermine their own. I am, however, open to the opinion that Satoshi Nakamoto represented a group of people, but only if Nick Szabo was part of it and was the one doing most of the correspondence.

If you have read on to this point, thank you for taking the time to hear me out, and I would love to hear what you think. This opinion is my own and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of anybody else on the Altcoin Buzz team. Leave a comment below and let me know if you agree or disagree and who you think Satoshi is, and why.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/17/business/decoding-the-enigma-of-satoshi-nakamoto-and-the-birth-of-bitcoin.html

[2] “Digital Gold by Nathaniel Popper

[3] https://likeinamirror.wordpress.com/ (For statistical significance and further reasoning)

[4] http://unenumerated.blogspot.com/2008/04/bit-gold-markets.html#3741843833998921269

The Altcoinbuzz Podcast crew had me on their recent podcast to discuss this article, check it out below:

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