The most enigmatic aspect of Bitcoin, is its founder; Satoshi Nakamoto. This mysterious figure emerged into the history books on October 31st 2008 with the release of The Bitcoin Whitepaper1. To this day, the identity of Satoshi is not known. Furthermore, there is little known as to whether or not Satoshi was a singular entity, or a group. The story of Satoshi is actually rather short, as their existence on the internet seems to only span 4 years (2008 - 2012). I’ve put a lot of thought into the role that Satoshi played in the early days of Bitcoin, as well as the role that their lack of identity continues to play, even in their absence. This letter details my thoughts on Satoshi and how I believe their existence could be conceptualized with respect to Bitcoin.
The People’s Currency
One of my core beliefs about Bitcoin, is that it is “The People’s Currency”. By “The People”, I am referring to the people of Earth. Yes, all 7.8 Billion of them.
This is actually the edge that I think Bitcoin has over every other cryptocurrency in existence. Bitcoin makes a better case for being generically belonging to everyone better than any other government currency, or cryptocurrency out there. A huge part of what makes Bitcoin belong to everyone, is who the founder is, or was. Since the founder is, to this day, anonymous, they could essentially be anyone or no one. In order for something like Bitcoin to truly belong to every human on this planet, it is important that anyone using Bitcoin can feel a sense of ownership over it. With so much of the division around us being centered around superficial traits such as race, gender, and socio-economic status, it was of the utmost importance that Satoshi be conceived as what is the most fundamental to us all; being a Human.
Who doesn’t relate to being a human?
Money is What Connects Us
Money is a connecting force. It is the vital social lubricant for the exchange of goods and services. Money in and of itself is typically useless, yet it is used to measure everything of value. Every country has their own money, but the idea of money is natural and permeates cultural and physical borders. One large issue I have with money today, is that we are all using different forms of it. Every country has their own money, and it appears to me that this is yet another hinge upon which we are divided. This is why I think it is important that Satoshi has no race, and no culture. If we are all to see Bitcoin as money, then the founder of Bitcoin cannot have citizenship in a country. Nor can they have socio-economic status, or culture. Satoshi must remain a human being of the earth, so that Bitcoin can remain a currency of the people of earth.
Satoshi Could Have Been Anyone
Satoshi could have been one man, a team of women, or a collection of everything in between. They could have been from Kenya, Russia, Japan, or the United States. The point is, we know nothing about the race, age, and gender of Satoshi Nakamoto. This means this entity is free to be no one, and everyone at the same time.
There is a strong tendency to refer to Satoshi as a singular “He”. Although I also believe that Satoshi is likely (based on Satoshi’s writings)2 to be a singular male individual, I think there is something deeper to be achieved here. I believe it to be philosophically important to not assign a gender, race, or age to Satoshi. The most base (and most important) of assumptions we can make about Satoshi, is that they are human.
Why Does Their Anonymity Matter?
Imagine if Bill Gates, or Mark Zuckerberg created Bitcoin. They’re both wealthy, affluent, white men from America. Imagine if Malala Yousafzai, or Greta Thunberg created Bitcoin. They’re both women who lead various human, and planetary rights movements. Regardless of your opinion of the four people mentioned, there are groups of people that dislike them for whatever reason. People find reasons to dislike others. The point is, if Satoshi had an identity, then they are able to be hated. Because Satoshi has no identity, Bitcoin also has no identity. It doesn’t stand for Wall Street Capitalism, Radical Islam, the Environmental Movement, or Woman’s Rights. It doesn’t stand for anything except its own existence. The anonymity of its founder is the pillar on which Bitcoin stands.
Bitcoin Has No Governance
Bitcoin is the first money since gold to have a completely flat hierarchy of governance and control. There are no roles within the Bitcoin network that are elevated above the other. Everyone is free to enter, and leave the Bitcoin network as they please, like the holy confines of a forest. In the first two years of Bitcoin, Satoshi was more or less leading the project. I believe it was necessary for Satoshi to leave Bitcoin (on 10/12/20103) in order for the project to truly have no leader. Each passing day that Satoshi remained the leader, was a systemic risk for Bitcoin, and the core ethos of equality that surrounds it.
If You Meet Satoshi on the Road, Kill Them
“If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.”– Linji Yixuan
This is an old saying from the Zen Buddhist master from the 9th century. While this phrase can be interpreted in a number of ways, I choose to apply the following interpretation.
We should resist the urge to idolize Satoshi and those who claim to be them. The real Satoshi invested a lot of time and effort into keeping their identity secret. If we meet someone claiming to be Satoshi, we should vehemently reject the notion. The fact that they would claim to be Satoshi is very anti-Satoshi of them. Their utterance of the claim is proof that they are not Satoshi.
For some, Satoshi is worthy of worship. They did after all, leave us with an important tool for human freedom and financial liberation. However, to worship would be to miss the point. Satoshi was anonymous to make us realize that we are all equal. If Satoshi’s identity were revealed, we would suddenly be able to attribute race, gender, socio-economic circumstance, and a host of other factors that would create separation between those who use Bitcoin, and those who created it. If we were to worship Satoshi, then we would elevate them above the rest with respect to Bitcoin. But Satoshi is not above us, they are among us.
Satoshi’s fortune is worth an estimated 57 Billion dollars at the time of writing. To this day, Satoshi hasn’t moved (spent) a single satoshi4 of their Bitcoin. In other words, Satoshi is the ultimate HODLer5. There have been many speculations as to why Satoshi has never cashed in on their Bitcoin. Let me offer a couple of reasons.
It Would Reveal Their Identity
The first, maybe most plausible reason that Satoshi’s Bitcoin has never moved, is that it would almost certainly reveal their identity. Nowadays, there are a multitude of ways to know someone’s identity simply by analyzing their Bitcoin wallet. Third party “Chain Walking” software may be used in conjunction with social media data to determine the path of Bitcoin. If you follow the Bitcoin back far enough, you can determine the source, and eventually find Satoshi Nakamoto.
It Would Destroy Bitcoin as We Know It
Satoshi may be aware that moving the Bitcoin may destroy the narrative of Bitcoin as we know it. The narrative being that it was founded by an anonymous individual that apparently has no interest in cashing in 57 billion dollars. Bitcoin is the only project in existence that I know of wherein the founder or founding team has not taken any of the founding shares. Every other project founder has minted (or premined) themselves some amount of cryptocurrency. Whether or not the intention was for personal gain, the result was personal gain.
The Richest Person in the World is No One
Satoshi will one day be the richest person in the world. It will be a monumental day in history where the richest person in the world, is no one. This outcome would be a most welcome poetic addition to the entire story of Bitcoin. It would only further the value offering of Bitcoin as an egalitarian form of money. Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk get a large amount of criticism for being the richest in the world. How do you criticize the richest person in the world when they have no nationality, no past, and seemingly no intent on spending their riches?
Who Could Be Satoshi?
There have already been many articles on who could have been Satoshi Nakamoto. I’ll just link them below for you to explore on your own. I personally believe that the most likely individual to be Satoshi Nakamoto is Hal Finney.
Satoshi’s Final Words
On April 23, 2011, Satoshi left their final words to one of the developers working on Bitcoin.
“I’ve moved on to other things. It’s in good hands with Gavin and everyone.” — Satoshi Nakamoto
If you were expecting something a little more prophetic, I apologize. Satoshi left the world as mysteriously as they entered. For reference, the Gavin that Satoshi is referring to is Gavin Andresen, an early Bitcoin developer and one of the inheritors of the codebase after Satoshi’s departure. Satoshi’s final words does leave one to wonder, what other things did they move onto!? What project could be more important to work on than Bitcoin?
I fall back to my earlier sentiment that Satoshi left to preserve the anonymity of their identity. This departure ultimately was as good as any, given the importance of not elevating themselves within the community. An official speech or letter of resignation would still give the impression of ownership on the project. This anti-climatic end to Satoshi’s story further illustrates that Bitcoin belongs to everyone.
All The Best,