Alleged 'Inventor of Bitcoin' Says We've Got the Wrong Guy
On a sunny day in Southern California, an elderly Asian man wearing glasses and a sport coat is being chased through the streets of Los Angeles by a throng of reporters. Not since the infamous "slow speed" chase of O.J. Simpson has there been such interest among the Southland media corps about the occupant of a moving vehicle.
He retreats to his Temple City home, where reporters set up camp on the lawn, keeping vigil and waiting for a glimpse of their elusive prey. The scene is so chaotic that authorities send in L.A. County Sheriff's deputies every few hours just to keep the peace.
The subject of all this attention is a man named Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto, the inventor of Bitcoin.
Or is he?
Satoshi Nakamoto is the name associated with the birth of Bitcoin; first in 2008 as the author of a paper describing the characteristics of the virtual currency, and then again in 2009 with the release of the first Bitcoin software, which created the network and the first actual "coins."
Nakamoto, which some speculate is a pseudonym, possibly for a group of people, began to withdraw from the Bitcoin community in mid-2010, handing over source code and bitcoin.org to other prominent members. After that, he disappeared. But speculation over his true identity didn't.
That's partly because he's believed to be in possession of approximately one million Bitcoin -- which at its height in 2013 had a value of over $1 billion -- and partly because nobody has ever actually met the man. (Assuming he actually is a man.)
Ironically, the same technology that makes it possible to create a currency whose main benefit is its anonymity also allows for the inventor of that currency to operate in the same way. But that doesn't mean there aren't a number of theories as to Nakamoto's true identity.
Investigative journalists have, at one time or another, suggested several people were Nakamoto, including a Finnish doctor, an Irish graduate student, a Japanese mathematician and a Texas security researcher. All have denied being Nakamoto.
Then Newsweek reported that it had found the real Satoshi Nakamoto. This Nakamoto, who loves model trains and whose elderly mother lives with him, stands in stark contrast to the popular image of bitcoin's creator: an elusive, semi-evil genius determined to undermine the world's monetary system. But he fueled the speculation with his initial comments.
Speaking to a reporter, he said he is "no longer involved in [Bitcoin] and cannot discuss it. It's been turned over to other people. They are in charge of it now. I no longer have any connection."
However, in a subsequent interview with the Associated Press, he denied any role in Bitcoin, claiming he was misunderstood by the Newsweek reporter.
"I got nothing to do with it," Nakamoto repeatedly told an AP reporter. He went on to explain that his initial comments were misunderstood, partly because English is not his native language.
Ultimately, it doesn't really matter who is unmasked as the father (or mother) of Bitcoin. More significant is the zeal with which the media has explored the issue, signaling that despite what many might think about a virtual cryptocurrency's viability, it has worked its way well into the public's collective psyche.
Awareness is the first step toward acceptance, and there would be some poetic justice if all the attention paid toward uncovering the creator of Bitcoin actually led to a wider understanding and use of the currency in everyday life.
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