The claim that Satoshi Nakamoto, the mysterious and enigmatic ‘inventor’ of Bitcoin, is in fact an Australian named Craig Wright has been floating around for a couple of years now.
This supposedly refuted the general consensus that Satoshi was in fact a pseudonymous collective of individuals who had collaborated on creating Bitcoin but chosen to keep their real identities hidden. If Wright was indeed Satoshi then this was big news, with potentially massive implications for the future of the cryptocurrency.
Speaking to the BBC, GQ and The Economist (all of whom exhibited a fair degree of scepticism), Wright claimed that he wanted ‘to set the record straight’ having been supposedly outed as Satoshi by Wired and Gizmodo in August 2015. He published a blogpost (since taken down) in which he offered ‘proof’ that he was in fact the father of Bitcoin.
Unfortunately for Wright however, his claim has been pretty convincingly disputed by experts who have shown that this supposed proof is nothing of the sort. Central to Wright’s argument was the fact that he supposedly possessed the same digital signature attached to the first ever Bitcoin transaction.
The hole in this argument was that the key had been publicly available since 2009. Wright had clearly not counted on the sharp eyes of security experts who were able to point this out. Everything published on the Bitcoin blockchain is visible to those with access permissions and this early activity was thus logged and verifiable.
Crucially, the one signature that could irrefutably be Satoshi’s is imprinted on the so-called ‘genesis block’ – the tranche of 50 bitcoins that were the first ever created. Wright could not prove that he had this key and has failed to do so ever since.
Wright’s blogpost was long, exhaustive and full of technical detail that he claimed proved him to be Satoshi, but without this initial genesis block signature, all the other evidence is essentially worthless. In comparison to Wright, Litecoin creator Charlie Lee was able to prove his founding-father status in a mere four lines, signing off with the same private key attached to the Litecoin genesis block.
Of course, if Wright was in fact Satoshi Nakamoto, then he would have been a fantastically rich man. He initially offered to demonstrate proof of this by moving a bitcoin from one of the earliest blocks to be mined, but then subsequently refused. These early bitcoins, mined when the process was still relatively inexpensive, are potentially worth billions yet Wright has never been able to prove that he has access to them.
Numerous Patent Registrations
All of this would perhaps be of little relevance, were it not for the fact that Wright is rumoured to be seeking a large number of Bitcoin and blockchain-based patents through a company called EITC Holdings Ltd that he is connected with. Figures show that by June 2016, Wright had filed over 50 patent applications in the UK through the Antigua-based company.
There is little dispute that Wright has indeed been involved with Bitcoin to some degree since its early days, but even he has now gone quiet on his claims to be Satoshi. However, if he is able to trade on his associations with Bitcoin and secure these patents, he could stand to make a great deal of money. Many in the Bitcoin community are unhappy about this and rightly so. Bitcoin’s democratised, decentralised ethos does not sit comfortably alongside such latent profiteering.
In his article The Satoshi Affair, published in the London Review of Books last year, Andrew O’Hagan gave us a portrait of Wright that revealed a complex and elusive individual. Others would go further and call him an opportunist and a liar, seeking to profit from the work of others. In truth, Wright remains something of an enigma. We can though be sure of one thing – he certainly is not Satoshi Nakamoto.
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