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Is GWU Economics Professor Nick Szabo Bitcoin Creator Satoshi Nakamoto?

In Archive, Bitcoin, Internet, Satoshi Nakamoto, Technology on December 4, 2013 at 4:33 AM




I recently became interested in identifying the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto. I started from the Bitcoin whitepaper [0] published in late 2008, and proceeded to run reverse textual analysis –essentially, searching the internet for highly unusual turns of phrase and vocabulary patterns (in particular places which you would expect a cryptography researcher to contribute to), then evaluating the fitness of each match found by running textual similarity metrics on several pages of their writing.

Which led me rather directly to several articles from Nick Szabo’s blog.

For those who wouldn’t know Nick Szabo and his documented links to Bitcoin: prior to the apparition of Bitcoin, Nick had been developing for several years (since 1998 [1]) the enabling mechanism for a decentralized digital currency, eventually converging on a system he called “bit gold” [3], which is the direct precursor to the Bitcoin architecture.

According to what seems to be a widely accepted origin story of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto was a highly skilled computer scientist (or group thereof) who found about Nick’s proposition for bit gold, hit upon an idea for bettering it, published the Bitcoin whitepaper, and decided to turn it into reality by developing the original Bitcoin client. Nick denies being Satoshi, and has stated his official opinion on Satoshi and Bitcoin in a May 2011 article [1].

I would argue that Satoshi is actually Nick Szabo himself, probably together with one or more technical collaborators.

As I mention above, what originally led me to this hypothesis is that reverse-searching for content similar to the Bitcoin whitepaper led me to Nick’s blog, completely independently of any knowledge of the official Bitcoin story.  I must stress this: an open, unbiased search of texts similar in writing to the Bitcoin whitepaper over the entire Internet, identifies Nick’s bit gold articles as the best candidates. It could still be a coincidence, although an unlikely one -since cryptocurrencies were a fairly niche topic in 2008 and earlier (seemingly 3 or 4 people), every contributor to the field was going to be reusing the same shared expressions and vocabulary. Satoshi would have been a reader of Nick’s blog, so you would expect him to describe the same concepts in a similar way. But there’s more.

Running similarity metrics on the whitepaper and Nick’s bit gold articles as well as his paper “formalizing and securing relationships on public networks” [2] indicated an excellent match over content-neutral expressions as well –so either Nick wrote the whitepaper, or it was written by somebody imitating Nick’s writing style.

Then, there is secondary evidence. It is obvious that Satoshi did extensive research about prior mentions of concepts similar to Bitcoin, as any proper scientist writing a paper would have. This is evidenced by Satoshi’s reference to Wei Dai’s b-money, as well as hashcash, while both of them do not even seem to have been a direct inspiration to Bitcoin. However, he made no mention of Nick Szabo’s bit gold, whereas Bitcoin is quite visibly built directly on top of the bit gold ideas. If Satoshi had been writing independently from Nick, wouldn’t he have cited his work as per proper scientific etiquette?

There is also the remarkable lack of public reaction on Nick’s part when Bitcoin started taking off. For somebody as deeply involved in these concepts as Nick, it strikes me as surprising that it took Nick many months to even mention Bitcoin, while his ideas were coming to life in an exciting way.


Related Link: The Well Deserved Fortune of Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin Creator, Visionary and Genius

  1. […] isn’t the first time people have used linguistic forensics to identify Szabo as the likely […]

  2. […] bitcoin expanded into a worldwide phenomenon, people have tried to unmask its creator (1|2|3|4|5|6|7|8), but his true identity has never been sufficiently […]

  3. […] to Wired, Szabo denied that he is the creator of Bitcoin. However, this is actually the second time forensic linguistics has been used to identify him as […]

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