November 5

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Who is Satoshi Nakamoto? Bitcoin’s Mysterious Creator

Ilir Salihi

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The debate over who Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto is rages to this day. In 2008, or even 2010, it might not have mattered. Back then... what's Bitcoin, right? These days, there are various opinions on how important Bitcoin is. But reality only leaves so much room for leeway.

There is no circulating asset that can claim a $20,000 a piece valuation, and that's during a massive downtrend. No top stock, bond, no currency. Gold and silver generally come in one-ounce options. It's only when you get to half-a-kilo gold bars that you start approaching a liquid asset of comparable value. So obviously, Bitcoin is a thing, and it's important.

One curiosity that Bitcoin forums will omit more often than not, however, is that the debate has been a specific one all along. The question of who created Bitcoin is really...

Did the government create Bitcoin or not? 

Any attempt to address Bitcoin's supposed makers, including celebrity ones, completely hops over the real and founding debate. From its inception, questions on whether cryptocurrencies were a not-so-secret government project raged.

For as many in the Bitcoin community that swear by them and the privacy they offer, there are just as many people that will tell you that the decentralized currency is actually firmly in the hands of the government. That might refer to the CIA, the NSA or any other similar body.

Let's address both sides of the argument, and see if we can demystify the makers of the top crypto to any degree.

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Arguments that the government made Bitcoin

#1: Bitcoin code isn't just great, it's proprietary

The more you look into Bitcoin, the more you might marvel at its back-end. Indeed, something that was supposedly concocted by a people's coder has better uptime, more resilience and greater privacy than the networks of banks with billions of dollars to their name. Sound suspicious?

It ought to, but that's just the start. Bitcoin uses SHA-256 as its backbone, and the secure hashing algorithm was made by the NSA in 2001. Awkward.

So part of why Bitcoin works so well is because it was made by spooks… oops, we mean teams of dedicated engineers working under an agency with "surveillance" in its name. This agency has all the resources in the world, including time, money and labor. And they aren't to be exhausted.

Did someone just take something that's good and appropriate it for their own project? Maybe. But it's as we said: private projects with heaps of money behind them, crypto or otherwise, constantly run into hitches. Networks fail, hacks happen. When's the last time you heard that happening with Bitcoin?

Nakamoto almost makes it seem like he's a single person that got the idea to make Bitcoin because he didn't like what big banks were doing. More than a decade later, his haphazard project still eclipses all of those banks with very large amounts of trained personnel. If something sounds too good to be true...

#2: Satoshi Nakamoto means "central intelligence" in Japanese

Even more awkward. It's not an exact translation, but not many things from Japanese to English are. Now, if there was an individual or even group wanting to make a joke about this, it's arguable how funny it is.

Satoshi Nakamoto Japanese translation

Screen shot of definition taken from CoinDesk.com

Together, Satoshi Nakamoto = Central Intelligence? Again, not an exact translation, but worth exploring.

The CIA is right next to NSA when it comes to surveillance and generally having its hands in every nasty piece of business over the past few decades. Having a supposedly private, people's cryptocurrency authored by something hinting towards CIA is kind of too brazen to believe that the CIA would actually do it, but not really. They might.

Still, as we move onto the second argument, we can see why this might not have been the best name choice or the ideal joke to make regardless of what a supposedly independent Bitcoin developer or a team of them envisioned for the cryptocurrency. 

CIA - Satoshi Nakamoto

Seal of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency - Image Credit Wikipedia Commons

#3: Spying and digital currencies go hand-in-hand

How Bitcoin ties into this is another contentious issue. Obviously, we now find ourselves in a situation where every government is trying to digitalize its dollar. This will, if enforced, essentially make every financial transaction transparent.

As the whole mess around CBDCs unravels, we're starting to notice a few things. Governments love the idea of digital currencies for obvious reasons. It gives them more control. But they have a barely positive to highly negative stance on cryptocurrencies. 

Is it just a diversion on their part? "Don't use our creation?" Whether we want to admit it or not, how CBDCs would work has been laid out by the crypto market over the last decade.

A very negative person might say that the crypto market was, and is, a pilot experiment for CBDCs, because the similarities don't end there. Everything is recorded on the ledger, as is often said of Bitcoin. It's supposed to be encrypted, but as we're told these days, if the government wants to trace a Bitcoin transaction back to you, it will. Privacy-oriented coins being shut down because they're privacy-oriented doesn't exactly help this image.

When we put it this way, it does look like a government project. But doesn't the other side have arguments, too? It sure does. So let's go over a few before trying to make any judgements.

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Arguments that Bitcoin is an independent project

#1: It's establishing its own purpose

As the Bitcoin whitepaper explains, Bitcoin is meant to act as an alternative to the banking system. Unlike CBDCs or even paper money, nobody is forced to use it. But if you do, you're theoretically disconnecting from centralized entities that have, if we're being fair, done you dirty.

The more central and private banks fail with all things money, the more the argument for Bitcoin strengthens. To this day, we're still hearing arguments that Bitcoin isn't really a thing, how you can't pay with it, the like. But it's dwindling. 

More and more retailers are accepting Bitcoin as a payment method. That's based primarily due to an increase in popularity. It's the people that want to use Bitcoin as payment, or just use it as generally. And as opposed to being a "mass mania", crypto adoption has a kind of trickle-down effect in the opposite direction. 

Its earliest adopters, large investors notwithstanding, were those with knowledge of or interest in computers, cryptography, privacy, independence and so on. In other words, not the masses.

So as we examine Bitcoin's proliferation, we understand that it would really be a long con type of thing on behalf of the government to get people to use cryptocurrencies. Establish a poorly-functioning monetary system and then introduce cryptocurrencies as a better alternative, over the span of a century? Not so sure...

Related: Start Buying Bitcoin Today at Coinbase.com

#2: Not all crypto is Bitcoin

If Bitcoin was a government project with the purpose of surveillance and warming everyone up to the idea of CBDCs, wouldn't it be fair to say it backfired? Bitcoin paved the way for thousands of altcoins, many of them more private than the original top token. 

And while Bitcoin is kind of used in the same sense that gold is used, to gauge their value, that's where the use ends. The Bitcoin network isn't really part of these projects: rather, they have their own.

These days, if you want a private and independent digital currency, you don't have to opt for Bitcoin. In truth, there are probably better alternatives already, and depending on the level of government intrusion, more are likely to spring into place. 

These projects, unlike Bitcoin, don't have a hidden team: their baseline is mostly laid out in full, and nobody suspects them to be a government project. So if or when the CIA, the NSA or whoever else made Bitcoin, didn't they foresee this happening? It seems like a massive oversight if not. And if they did, what's the point of making Bitcoin, anyways?

The altcoin market strengthens the argument that Bitcoin, or more specifically cryptocurrencies, are good and not something meant to bring in digital totalitarianism. So long as it's flourishing as it is right now, we don't expect this to change.

Related: Why is Crypto Crashing?

#3: Bitcoin is still private a decade later

As we said, supposedly governments are getting better and better at tracing Bitcoin transactions. The thing is, Bitcoin has been around for over a decade. This is a point we'll expand upon later, but still bears covering early on.

Over a decade into its inception, Bitcoin remains exceedingly private, especially among the more tech-savvy user. More private than anything other than cash, but really, with the plethora of identification on every individual private bill, it might not be a stretch to say that cash is barely more private than Bitcoin. If someone wants to trace cash back to you, they theoretically can. The tools are in place. The same is true of Bitcoin. But as we know in the reality of both, it's not that straightforward.

On the flip side, we have a peer to peer electronic cash system that hasn't really compromised anyone's privacy a decade in. Compared to bank transfers and the like... well, there's really no comparison. 

So again, if Bitcoin really is a government creation with the purposes of surveillance, it must really be a long con thing. Because people have been privately transacting in it for over a decade.

Satoshi Nakamoto - who invented bitcoin?

Who are Bitcoin's supposed creators?

For whatever reason, people can't seem to get enough of celebrity culture. The need to attach a known name to Bitcoin has been there pretty much from the start. For reasons outlined above, a celebrity or any known figure making Bitcoin is even more unlikely than a random cryptographer or group doing it.

Nonetheless, speculation abounds. Names that were thrown in the Bitcoin hat included...

Craig Wright 

He is an Australian businessman and computer engineer who claims to have invented Bitcoin. See the issue with that? He claims it. How couldn't Bitcoin's creator prove he did it? It's this inability that has brought on many disputes between Wright and various parties, giving us one of our more prominent dramas in the crypto market.

Nick Szabo

A not-so-famous figure that gained exposure in this sense by being mentioned by more famous ones. Szabo has the background and the interest, but hasn't yet claimed to have made Bitcoin himself. His ongoing body of work is perhaps the primary driver behind this particular guess pertaining to Bitcoin's origin.

Hal Finney

Trace the money back, right? Along with being the first to acquire a license for cryptocurrency software, Hal Finney was the first person to receive a Bitcoin transaction. This suggests that he either had a part in its creation or knows the people involved. However, Finney's considerable popularity in the world of computing might have been a likely reason for his involvement. He would have been a top choice to send the first Bitcoin transaction to for many. And since he passed on, we aren't likely to get confirmation.

In the video below, podcast host Lex Fridman asks Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin, who is Satoshi Nakamoto? The two discuss Hal Finney and speculate how involved he may have been in the creation of Bitcoin.

Related: Gold vs Bitcoin - Which is the Better Investment?

Click to play

Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto

When the press learned that there is someone named Satoshi Nakamoto, also known as Dorian Prentice, they did what the press does. The real Nakamoto, if by name only, became a temporary inventor of Bitcoin based on his name alone. Dorian Nakamoto denied his involvement, and indeed, doesn't appear to be too involved in what would be necessary to make such an invention. But who knows, right?

Financial elites

This makes the whole elaborate hoax part a little less elaborate. Logically, the ultra-wealthy bought Bitcoin by the fistful while the average person speculated. They own most of the Bitcoin now, as you might expect. Is it a stretch to say that they created it as a way to essentially own a huge market? Maybe, maybe not. There's no denying they've benefitted from it, though.

A group, rather than an individual

While it's not as attractive to envision a group of people working on Bitcoin, that's what Satoshi Nakamoto's true identity might be, for starters. As we said, it's quite the effort for a single person, and the group might have just chosen to name themselves as an individual to look less... well, shady.

Related: Get $10 in Bitcoin Today with Your New Coinbase Account

Should we really care who made Bitcoin?

Let's say you are a cryptocurrency user and were struck by lightning tomorrow. And it wasn't the good kind of strike, either. You perished. Would it matter if cryptocurrencies were a massive hoax meant to enslave the populace digitally, to you? Well, no. Cryptocurrencies, to you, would have remained a private payment method that more than likely treated you well and hopefully didn't cost you too much money if you made speculative bets.

A lot of people who do guesswork on Bitcoin's possibly nefarious origin fail to neglect this part. Bitcoin is nearly 15 years old by now, so if it is a con, like we said, it's a lengthy one. When will the con materialize, and how? Should we care? 15 years of good service is already something. It's a lot more than most things outside of our physical body can claim, really. So getting too caught up, if not to say concerned, that Bitcoin is a government ploy ignores the good that cryptocurrencies have done so far.

Equally so, we know that the Bitcoin founder wanted to remain anonymous, and as Craig Wright's somewhat painful example has proven, figuring out the token's maker is going to prove difficult. Maybe we weren't meant to know who it is, if for no other reason, than because of what happened to Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto. Human nature does weird things. And in the case of crypto, Bitcoin has worked quite well so far with its creator totally anonymous. We can do guesswork, but it's probably best not to obsess over it and treat Bitcoin as everything else: as-is.

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About the Author

Ilir writes about personal finance, entrepreneurship, and digital marketing. When he's not creating content online, he's spending time with his family in Washington, DC.

Ilir Salihi


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