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Satoshi Nakamoto is probably Nick Szabo? (likeinamirror.wordpress.com)
255 points by fchollet on Dec 1, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 180 comments

You can't exactly use "digital signatures" and "cryptographic proof" as distinguishing characteristics among crypto researchers. Many of the phrases noted are similar overly verbose academic writing. "It should be noted" at 5% and "can be characterized" at 1% do not add up to a 0.05% chance of non-Nick Szabo writing the paper.

Even if we agreed with the statistics, the "one in a thousand" would be relevant if we had some other reason to suspect Szabo. He could simply be that one in a thousand who matches.

The article is somewhat persuasive, but more certain than the evidence presented seems to justify.

A paper gives you dozens of phrases through which you could fish for the ones that point towards your desired author, if you wanted. It's sort of like how given a list of my inheritable traits and two potential fathers, you could make a list with a few traits that match with either one of them. If the list is long enough (say you have thousands of SNPs to root through), you might even be able to find a few _rare_ traits that match.

[Edit: speaking of which, interesting to see that a past attempt to out Satoshi claimed a combination of textual and other evidence pointed at a particular group of researchers who filed a patent right before bitcoin.org was bought: https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Satoshi_Nakamoto]

The poster's suggesting they ran an automated analysis against a bunch of authors, and that it clearly pointed to Nick. Particularly if _still_ it points that way even if restricted to content-neutral phrases (so it effectively picked Nick out of all crypto researchers, not just out of those that talk about timestamp servers etc.), that's more persuasive: programs won't fish (though you could still repeatedly change the algorithm until it gets the result you want). Publishing it would be interesting.

As is, this is interesting but seems preliminary or shallow--doesn't deal with any other text Satoshi or Nick wrote, doesn't deal with code, and doesn't give us full raw data or scripts. I'm not sure Satoshi is Nick Szabo.

Also, the post-dating had occurred by the Oct 17, 2009 Wayback Machine crawl, but the post content didn't visibly change, only the date. I have no idea if it was anything interesting or not.

Ha, I don't think this has any value as evidence, but it's kind of funny that in a comment on one of the eventually-postdated blog posts (originally April 2008), Nick explained that the mechanics of the bit gold market would be nonobvious to most people and therefore the idea could use a demonstration project, and asked, "Anybody want to help me code one up?"


That's evidence against Satoshi=Szabo; IIRC, somewhere Satoshi says he started coding up the prototype in 2007, so if Szabo is suggesting someone write it in 2008...

If I saw strong evidence Szabo wrote some of Satoshi's words (and I haven't yet!), then maybe someone took him up in Apr 2008, they pretty quickly refined some things and got 0.1 out the door, Szabo contributed some text, and they changed the post date to after Bitcoin's release/threw in some British spellings/made incorrect claims about when work started [or the implementer really had started earlier, or something] to add noise for anyone trying to trace Satoshi back to actual people.

Still, that all kind of assumes there was 11-dimensional chess going on to conceal who worked on Bitcoin, and I think the reality was likely simpler.

However, that scenario would allow for some of Szabo's post-Bitcoin statements to be sincere even if he was involved: could be true that he hasn't audited the code and that he's not entirely sure if certain bit gold -> Bitcoin changes are features or bugs, since any refiner/implementer presumably had some independence and collaborators never agree on everything. And Szabo being involved is at least a saner notion than previous ones: we at least know he found proof-of-work e-gold interesting.

But I'm speaking without having dug deeply into what they both wrote, which would probably probably a prereq for developing useful priors. I don't think I know much here, and I certainly don't think the comment alone is evidence for Satoshi=Szabo (or Satoshi-involved-Szabo).

Or it could be intentional misdirection, as with "favour". Not that I'm particularly invested in Satoshi==Szabo, but if I were interested in deflecting suspicion, that would be one obvious-looking way to do it.

Another thought 'cause I can't stop myself: if Satoshi is a collaboration, anyone outing themselves as part of it is making it harder for others to keep their roles secret. So if Nick + friend(s) were Satoshi, you couldn't well expect him to talk about it.

Publishing the program would be interesting.

And persuasive, if it's all as suggested.

>>Even if we agreed with the statistics, the "one in a thousand" would be relevant if we had some other reason to suspect Szabo. He could simply be that one in a thousand who matches.

Except we aren't dealing with a massive amount of people who may use those phrases just a couple of people. If we already have reason to suspect something and we are given independent persuasive evidence this should be taken together to make it very unlikely that our hypothesis is not true.

The great thing about textual stylistic analysis is that everyone has a specific way of communicating that can be identified unless one takes steps to actively hide it. This happens in all languages and can usually identify authorship regardless if someone tried to copy someone else's style.

> "The great thing about textual stylistic analysis is that everyone has a specific way of communicating that can be identified "

How scientifically well supported is this assertion?

Stylometry's a real thing. It gets harder the shorter the sample is, and it's much easier to say "this text matches X's verbal tics better than it matches Y's" than to confidently point at a specific person like this post is doing. Fishing for a similarity measure that supports your desired conclusion is a risk. Identification from style (phrases, quirks, vocab size) is a thing, though.

The program or more-raw data would be interesting.

I agree there the two phrases are not independent, but the joint probability of both events is mathematically guaranteed to be lower than the probability either event alone. As we add more phrases (events) to this distribution, it becomes exponentially less likely to be someone else.

The problem is also a sample bias I think. He clearly hand picked low probability words as evidence.

In other words, the probability that there exists a subset of words in a pair of papers that are "globally rare" among cryptography papers is likely high.

So to answer P(Nick|Evidence) we can't use ~P(selected subset|crypto), we better use ~P(all words|crypto) and compare that to all other plausible sources.

As a clarifying anecdote, remember low probability events happen all the time if the sample space is simply large. Throw a dice ~8 times in a row an the probability of that event is lower than winning the lottery or getting hit by lightning, yet it happens every time. If you pick every word from the source paper and multiply their relative frequencies out, you will get a number astronomically low, and that happens for any paper.

Guaranteed to be less than or equal to.

* lower or equal

personally, this kind of thing seems obvious. i would be surprised if the person who wrote the paper didn't take cute things like this into account

Here's a couple more stylistic quirks that jump out on a very cursory glance at Nakamoto's public postings. (Disclaimer: I know nothing about Bitcoin but am a pretty experienced copy-editor. None of these are remotely conclusive, just more incremental evidence.)

Satoshi Nakamoto uses double spaces after sentence-final; so does Nick Szabo.

"Interestingly" is a distinctive word, especially at sentence-initial. Both Nakamoto and Szabo use this.

Hyphenated "e-mail" has been on the way out for a few years; I still use it but I've been in a minority for a long time. Again, both Nakamoto and Szabo use this.

(I'd be interested to see if anyone can find Szabo starting paragraphs with "Right, ...": that's a definite tic in Nakamoto's postings.)

> Satoshi Nakamoto uses double spaces after sentence-final; so does Nick Szabo.

So does every single person of my generation who went through the Canadian school system (and no doubt others world-wide). Double spaces after sentences is 100% standard here. In fact, it was only recently I found out some people use a single space...

> "Interestingly" is a distinctive word, especially at sentence-initial. Both Nakamoto and Szabo use this.

> (I'd be interested to see if anyone can find Szabo starting paragraphs with "Right, ...": that's a definite tic in Nakamoto's postings.)

AFAIK these are both extremely common among [CS, Math, Physics] professors.

He analyzed only the white paper. There is some more text written by Satoshi in the emails [0] provided by Dustin Trammell.

[0] - http://www.dustintrammell.com/files/Satoshi_Nakamoto.zip

The style of writing is different in technical papers. You would need to compare it to the purported authors informal cryptocurrency writings which may not exist.

Like Nick's blog?

Probably not similar enough in style to e-mail messages but maybe. You would also need control sets.

I was recently (Thanksgiving) discussing this with the owner of a small tech company. Our consensus was that if Satoshi was not Szabo, Satoshi at least read Szabo's works. The article doesn't spend as much time on the similarity of Szabo's ideas to those of the Bitcoin whitepaper, but I encourage anyone who is interested in this topic to read some of Szabo's stuff.

His website, http://szabo.best.vwh.net/ is currently experiencing capacity issues, so here's a cache link:


Additionally, his blogspot: http://unenumerated.blogspot.com/

From a limited experience with either of their writings, I don't think it's Szabo. I've read a lot of Satoshi's emails and Satoshi's writing style seems at the same time less academically formal but also more technical. Nick Szabo's writing, at least on his blog, seems less technical but more academically formal. Nick Szabo also seems to heavily discuss history and historical concepts. I do not see a lot of technical content on his blog. Satoshi seems to have a greater command of - and focus on - computers. This doesn't rule out the possibility the Szabo is some kind of Newton-like polymath who has command of a vast quantity of knowledge, but it seems more likely that Satoshi is more technical-minded than broad-based in his knowledge, despite being very smart. They might use a lot of the same phrases and idioms but this could just be a function of the fact that Satoshi was heavily influenced by Szabo. Regardless if they are writing about the same topic they are likely to use a LOT of the same words and phrases, and it might be more useful to filter out any words or phrases that are specific to the topic at hand.

I would tend to agree with you: the Bitcoin client looks like the work of a developer, not that of an academic. So it would not have been created by Szabo. The author of the blog post mentions that Szabo could have had technical collaborators, so maybe he could just have been the person writing the Bitcoin paper.

If your aim is not to be identified, I can understand keeping your mouth shut about matters of opinion, especially if you hold distinctive opinions you have given out in public before. One of Ulbricht's reported failings [1] was talking about Mises and the Austrian School as both Ulbricht and DPR.

Keeping your anonymous persona's mouth shut about history, politics, economics, sociology, art theory and human nature is good 'opsec'.

[1] http://grugq.github.io/blog/2013/10/09/it-was-dpr/

Except that Nick Szabo's main interest in bit gold was to stop inflation. He says flat out that "the most pernicious of which has probably been inflation" when discussing problems with money. That seems to also be a main motivation behind bitcoin was well(at least from the early proponents who seemed to be more philosophically motivated than they were by practical considerations)

For sure you'd expect the creators of cryptocurrencies to have certain opinions in common, such as disliking the flaws of fiat currencies.

I'm thinking more in terms of expressing multiple opinions that come together to give a fingerprint.

To use a computer analogy, if I told you I run Firefox I haven't told you much, but if (in a single post or across many) I tell people I run Firefox, OS X 10.7, flashblock, and I refuse to run the Java plugin? Taken together that's a fingerprint that could really narrow down a list of suspects (even if it didn't uniquely identify a single individual).

A set of political opinions could serve the same purpose, if they're distinctive enough.

Wei Dai is another relevant person, with his b-money ideas and bitcoin's use of the crypto++ library.

But who cares?

Well, Wei Dai and b-money are cited in Satoshi's original white paper.

Only because someone else pointed out to Satoshi that he should cite them.

I know Adam Back introduced Satoshi to b-money, but (correct me if I'm wrong) this was back before Satoshi had formalized his ideas. When he first posted the paper to metzdowd's cryptography list, the b-money citation was there.

Isn't that pretty much the same thing? Satoshi didn't mention Wei Dai until Adam pointed him out to him.

Sounds pretty legit.

But I'm wondering, where does the NSA paper “How to Make a Mint” fit into this story?


Could contributor Tatsuaki Okamoto be Nick’s partner? Satoshi Nakamoto kinda sounds like a combination of their names.

Maybe Nick was the ideator/philosopher/writer, and Tatsuaki was the programmer/crypto nerd?

+Satoshi Obana

Do we really need to dox this guy?

Yeah. I mean, I'm quite interested from a personal curiosity point of view, but considering that they're probably currently living a reasonably ordinary life, to out them as a target for kidnapping in order to acquire the vast stash of bitcoins, just seems like a really mean thing to do.

There are somewhere between 20,000 and 25,000 centa-millionaires in North America. If Nick is Satoshi Nakamoto, he may need to take basic precautions, but otherwise is likely to be fine.

Those 'basic precautions' will not be cheap and would probably require the liquidation of some of their bitcoins since they probably aren't anything like as wealthy in non-bitcoin terms. Liquidating their bitcoins would damage their psuedonymity, which is something that they are clearly not keen to do.

The other thing is that most of those centa-millionaires are not keeping their holdings entirely in cash that can be moved quickly in large quantities psuedonymously requiring only a small piece of information likely to be held by Satoshi.

Certainly, securing multi-millionaires is not an insoluable problem (although it fails sometimes), but I think that Satoshi is likely to be in a situation that make the consequences of being unmasked particularly dangerous and the difficulty of measures to keep safe particularly onerous.

When talking with nerds and you ask "Do we really need to do X?" the answer will always be yes regardless of the implication of the action.

Most hackers think that way when they believe what they're doing is harmless or their victim is some faceless institution.

I think people trying to dox this guy haven't really considered that they could (potentially) be causing innocent people a lot of damage with their "investigations".

Or they considered it, and didn't care, because if they get it right, they'll always be the "guy who unmasked Satoshi".

Shall we call this Seiji's Law?

No. However, it is interesting, considering Satoshi could have a net worth in the billions soon if (s)he/they own many of the earlier-mined bitcoins.

The attempts to pin Satoshi on to one person strikes me as odd. In other threads on HN, everyone agrees the work was well done, like a peer-reviewed academic paper of sorts, but then nobody seems to entertain the idea that it might be, say, 2-3 people with Nick or someone else just being one of the team.

Are there solid reasons for discounting a team of researchers, post-docs, or something similar?

"Are there solid reasons for discounting a team of researchers, post-docs, or something similar?"

Yes, if you read the Bitcoin whitepaper that Satoshi originally sent out, and then compare it to the work done by teams of researchers and postdocs. Here are some things to think about:

1. Bitcoin can be attacked in polynomial time. This is a sharp and very extreme break from the typical expectations we have about cryptosystems, yet Satoshi did not devote any time to this in the Bitcoin paper.

2. The security analysis presented in the Bitcoin paper assumes a specific attack strategy, without ruling out others or even mentioning the possibility that another attack strategy could exist.

3. The security goal of Bitcoin was never clearly stated in the Bitcoin paper, and there is no clear threat model.

4. Almost none of the related work was mentioned, not even to distinguish Bitcoin from that work. Digital cash has been extensively studied by cryptographers, but that mountain of work was not mentioned at all. Bitcoin is a multiparty computation system meant to operate on a massive scale, yet at no point did Satoshi mention the even larger body of work that has been published on secure multiparty computation. Satoshi did not even mention the various ways that distributed systems can be attacked, which are presented in the unmentioned related work.

These are not signs that experienced researchers are behind Bitcoin. From where I sit, these all point to Bitcoin having been the work of a cryptography enthusiast, probably a high school or college student with some extra time on his hands.

> these all point to Bitcoin having been the work of a cryptography enthusiast, probably a high school or college student with some extra time on his hands.

If true, that's just embarrassing for the cryptography community. Having worked on the problem for years and then be shown up by an amateur who creates a system that hasn't been cracked despite a $multi-billion incentive to do so.

You make it sound like cryptographers were stumped by the problem of digital cash. In fact, the cryptography research community had basically solved that problem; the only difference between Bitcoin and the academic constructions is that Bitcoin does not have any central bank. There were almost no cryptographers trying to find a way to remove the central bank from digital cash systems when Satoshi came along. Nobody should be surprised by that, as there is still no rigorous definition of digital cash that does not invoke a central bank or authority of some kind. Had Satoshi presented such a definition, he would have unquestionably "shown up" cryptography researchers.

At best, all you can say is that Satoshi demonstrated that cryptographers were solving the wrong problem with digital cash. That, however, was not news in 2008. Cryptographers had thought that credit card payments were too insecure to make sense on the Internet; the failure of DigiCash and related efforts in the 90s proved otherwise.

I've studied the origins of bitcoin extensively, and I agree with almost everything you've said.

One nitpick: I don't think it was necessarily the work of a high school or college student, but rather someone older who had been following the cypherpunk movement since the early 90s.

Just take into account the value + size of the BTC portfolio. It's over 1m bitcoins now. If this was a conglomerate of some size and the value of the portfolio grew from $1m US to $1b US in such a short time, wouldn't there be a lot of pressure to sell and take a large amount of cash for each shareholder? I'd think there would be a LOT of talk about that and that, yes, it would be likely to see each person taking $10m US out at the very least. So, anecdotally, I see the fact/appearance that this hasn't happened as evidence that Satoshi's bitcoins are owned by one person. One person who owned so many BTC could sell enough to raise $10m without anyone really thinking much about it. But if a group of twelve, for example, owned that many bitcoins and each wanted to pull out $10m in cash, that size of a transaction goes noticed. Wasn't it just last week that someone did a $147m BTC transfer? It made headlines everywhere.

The end of the article mentions this. The whitepaper is only one piece of bitcoin, there's also the software and peer-review. The article just makes a persuasive argument that Nick was the primary author of the whitepaper.

I think eventually we will find out who he/she is. Satoshi's wallet is holding 1M BTC right now, so close to a BILLION US $ worth of value. Would be interesting to see if it keeps rising, and goes up 30-40x from now over time if satoshi could end up being the wealthiest individual in the world.

A commodity is only worth what someone will pay for it. It would be impossible to offload 1M BTC at the market mid (currently $962) so it seems ridiculous to value Satoshi's bitcoin wallet at $1B.

The market isn't sufficiently well developed and doesn't have sufficient depth to support transactions of that size. Combine a lack of liquidity with the fact that BTC have no intrinsic value, and that the market has shown itself to be vulnerable to price shocks in the past, and I would value 1M BTC at significantly less than $1B (probably not even 10% of that).

> A commodity is only worth what someone will pay for it. It would be impossible to offload 1M BTC at the market mid (currently $962) so it seems ridiculous to value Satoshi's bitcoin wallet at $1B.

Conversely, it seems unlikely that e.g. Google's shares would be worth the current market cap if they were all sold at the same time. But we still accept the current share price as a basis of e.g. Page and Brin's net worth, so we should also accept Satoshi's wallet's current value (even if it fluctuates more than typical stock prices).

> Conversely, it seems unlikely that e.g. Google's shares would be worth the current market cap if they were all sold at the same time.

Not really true. Google's shares have a value that is based mostly on analysis of expected value. If they offloaded a bunch of their shares at once, the analyzed value wouldn't change, so the market would only crash for a very short time while everyone else realizes Google is a better deal than their other stocks.

There is no revenue from Bitcoin, on the other hand. Much like gold, its value is almost entirely based on speculation, but with some added value on account of people needing to buy a little bit to do certain things. The market cap of Bitcoin is not based on anything tangible.

There's a far stronger floor though on the price for Google shares, given that they're a very profitable company with good future prospects. The share price doesn't have to drop too much before it starts looking like a bargain to the many deep-pocketed stock market investors out there. With Bitcoin the value is so speculative at the moment that I think, if anything, a sell-off that large would trigger a self-sustaining run on Bitcoin.

I don't think he would need to cash out. That is a simplistic view of money. He could leverage his asset to borrow money from the incumbent banking system at super low rates as he uses his BTC stash as collateral. Then he could start diversifying his assets and buying cash-flow properties or other investments to generate even MORE money (whatever currency or form that may be).

> he uses his BTC stash as collateral

Doesn't collateral require that you provide the ability to transfer ownership?

It is easy to do that. You just need a trusted third party, and you can set up a BTC contract.

Your premise regarding the market not being of sufficient size to support a 1M BTC transaction is flawed.

You're assuming: 1. That it would be a block transaction, where a block doesn't refer to a BTC block but a single transaction. Most institutional/sophisticated/smart traders scale out of their positions. 2. There may be an underlying assumption that just because someone (satoshi etc.) sell their bitcoin's for X price they would want to withdraw it in another currency. If the goal is to own more BTC, they would transfer in BTC to a trading account, sell said BTC while scaling out and buy back BTC when prices drop below their average sell price.

If someone was extremely cautious they would do these trades under multiple accounts, most BTC trading accounts need verification for deposits/withdrawal only. This could be done on multiple exchanges.

The average weekly trading volume of mtgox is >130,000BTC/week, therefore over 7 million BTC were traded which is sufficient volume to liquidate 70-100% of 1M BTC.

The market is so volatile at the moment, especially with speculative momentum traders, that it's hard to say what would happen. There's no real way to value Bitcoin on fundamentals, so there's nothing much to keep the market stable around a particular valuation.

This is incorrect. If bitcoin is successful over the coming years, the best approach to monetizing that wallet, other than very gradual diversification into other currencies, would be to set up a bitcoin bank or flex agent, providing liquidity to other bitcoin businesses in exchange for a small fee.

Basically, that wallet should be used to nurture and feed the bitcoin ecosystem, and in doing so it can become worth vastly more. It becomes the JP Morgan - circa 1910 - of the bitcoin financial world. With the profit generated from the business, it can be used to calm panics, and help lessen volatility, a form of pressure regulator.

Not gonna happen, the depth isn't there.

Even today's $1k BTC is speculation at the edge of the market, 1million BTC as a batch only fetch about $50m worth of interested buyers.

Here is one ting I don't understand, though: suppose I am a billionaire black hat VC, and I wanted to steal Satoshi's coins. Could I invest a half billion dollars and brute force a majority-coup attack on the blockchain? Of not now what about when those $ figures are 10x? Even if bitcoin gets 100x more popular, it won't be 100x more network miners, it will be people buying BTC and trusting the block chain published by coinbase and whoever.

The computational power to attack the network grows significantly faster than the price of Bitcoin (and this is pretty much guaranteed to continue, by design). Attacking Satoshi's coins would be among the hardest, because you would have to attack the very earliest parts of the Blockchain which have tens of thousands of blocks protecting them. Half a billion dollars wouldn't come close at the current difficulty level.

Further, performing this attack would invalidate all Bitcoins created after that point (which is the vast majority of them), so the Bitcoins you stole would be worthless.

To add to this: The "official blockchain" is the one with the most computational work expended to create it.

A 50+% attack operates by rewriting history back to a certain depth in the blockchain by providing a new chain of blocks with more computational work, back to a certain point.

I think the bitcoin devs also put in certain "checkpoints" just to be even more certain... i.e. blocks that are "officially permanent" (which also makes all prior blocks in that chain "offiically permanent").

Maybe someone could tell us about that.

Ah yes, I forgot about checkpointing. The reference client has certain blocks hardcoded in it to signal the official chain. Only transactions in blocks made after the latest checkpoint can be overridden in a way that the reference client would accept. So to steal Satoshi's coins, you would also have to get people to switch to your own client with different checkpoints. At this point, it really wouldn't even be Bitcoin anymore.

> I wanted to steal Satoshi's coins. Could I invest a half billion dollars and brute force a majority-coup attack on the blockchain?

No - controlling a majority of the compute doesn't allow you to steal some unrelated users bitcoins.

You'd have to brute force their private key to do that, which is an infeasible computational challenge.

Controlling a majority of the compute would allow you to 'double spend' coins you have, but that's a different problem.

Wouldn't BTC lose all value if there was a majority attack? Because surely such an attack would be quickly detected.

You can't "steal" anyone's coins, you may "take back" the coins you have sent someone with enough power, though.

If you had half a billion dollars, it would be much more profitable for you to mine bitcoins.

Or invest it in something with tangible value...

This of course assumes that you'd use an exchange to sell the coins.

There are other methods of selling coins. Larger transactions tend to happen off-exchange.

Interesting. So this money is cursed right now? Satoshi either de-anonymizes himself or doesn't have a chance to use it?

He could donate it without de-anonymizing himself.

Whoever Satoshi Nakamoto is, he (or she or they) must have been at least aware of Nick Szabo. I wonder if there's any coincidence to the initials: SN and NS? Of course, even if SN != NS it could be a tip of the hat or an intentional red herring.

I do constantly worry how easy it would be to become deliberately but wrongly incriminated by a malicious person(s) leaving an ordit trail to look like it was you. I'm certain the next person to run a Silk Road equivalent will already have a suitable patsy lined up to take the fall...

A lot of this seems plausible. The one part that is really weak, though still interesting, is the way the textual analysis was done. Robust stylometric analysis uses the frequency of use of the most frequent words (think stop words, like it, of, an, the, or, on, etc.), not the topic-bearing words.

Am I the only one who thinks it kinda uncouth to try to unmark this guy? He wants to be anonymous, this seems pretty stalker-y to me.

EDIT: not to mention potentially damaging peoples reputations by incorrectly accusing them.


And we complain about the right to privacy on HN with all the post about the NSA, Facebook, Google and so on. Whoever he is, it is non of our business. leave the man alone already.

My thoughts exactly. I got a followup question, who is the blog posts author? Posting such statements anonymously is just low.

Especially since, thus far anyway, they have not responded to any of the criticism or even approved any of the comments submitted.

Oh please, just leave man alone. If he/she wanted publicity, he would come out himself, or herself.

His analysis is fairly compelling. I imagine if a few others were also able to confirm this with their own independent textual analysis, it is extremely likely this is Satoshi Nakamoto.

The author needs to give more details of how he performed 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". If true, this is the most convincing argument I have seen thus far.

His analysis is pretty terrible. He seems to have made up the method on his own without consulting established authorship attribution scholarship.

I agree that his methods are not rigorous enough to complete the argument, but it is going in the right direction. This is why it would be great to have confirmation from a few more textual analysis methods.

Are there "text mixing" services you can use to anonymize your writing? Seems like analysis like this could prove to be dangerous for free speech in the future. Perhaps just round-trip babble fishing a few times.

Machine translation doesn't work: http://www.cs.drexel.edu/~sa499/papers/adversarial_stylometr... "Adversarial Stylometry: Circumventing Authorship Recognition to Preserve Privacy and Anonymity" Brennan et al 2013

Fortunately, simply trying to write like someone else does.

Perhaps Satoshi Nakamoto should have written in faux-Engrish in order to really confuse people.

I can see choosing an affected writing style becoming an integral part of creating an anonymous persona.

There's some preliminary research software for this :


There are many Text Spinners online that do the trick for many cheating students and spammers.

Not even students. The modifications performed by spinners are frequently silly - they amount to taking some percentage of words, looking them up in a thesaurus, and replacing them with a randomly chosen synonym. It's pretty common that the synonym is inappropriate for the context, so the results are ridiculous. For instance, here's what a spinner does with this paragraph:

    Not even understudies. The alterations performed by spinners are oftentimes
    senseless - they measure to taking some rate of statements, turning them
    toward a thesaurus, and reinstating them with a haphazardly picked
    equivalent word. It's pretty regular that the equivalent word is unseemly
    for the connection, so the effects are ludicrous. Case in point, here's
    what a spinner does with this paragraph:
It's good enough for spammers, I suppose, but it's easy to spot. The overall sentence structure isn't changed, either, so that's still ripe for analysis.

What is the purpose of identifying who Satoshi is at this point?

Historical curiosity, mainly.

There maybe some other good reasons for knowing his identity. If, for example, Satoshi was employed by some State Intelligence agency (or had ties to the mafia, or terrorist groups, or ... ) would that make a difference? Maybe, maybe not.

Okay, fair enough. That would make a sort of difference to me, but not so much at this point...

The original developer is most likely the person that mined the initial block-chains and is most likely owning a fortune due to the ability to market successfully that particular mining-validation algorithm to the world.

And? Has owning a fortune by become a reason to dox somebody?

Curiosity has always been purpose enough for man; actual purpose is not necessary. There's a secret near billionaire out there that invented perhaps the first crypto-currency to really take off. People want to know who it is.

Right now he/she holds >1B USD worth of BTC, which really does not concern/bother me.

What concerns me is that Satoshi holds over 10% of BTC, which could become significant, if the value of BTC market cap raises to say 21T (ie 1M USD per BTC) as many eventually hope it does.

Someone with 2T USD worth of claim checks on society demands more scrutiny than your run of the mill billionaire.

I would sleep better at night if I knew that my participation in BTC is not fueling some insanely evil endgame plan.

To add drama to the bitcoin discussion. If someone finds a name then we get to talk about an arrest record, read interviews with an ex spouse or neighbors, get to discuss his or her political positions and personal motivations, perhaps nefarious!

People aren't interested in a name. They want a story. It'll be like E! For HN. Just look at how snowden himself garnered as much disscussion as the activities he revealed.

What is the purpose of 'Satoshi' remaining anonymous/psuedonymous at this point?

I prefer Satoshi being an anonymous techie than a fallible human. Imagine Bitcoin grows 10-100x over the next few years. I don't want Satoshi's divorce to threaten the entire ecosystem.

we've all got our preferences I guess.

For Satoshi, I suspect it might be nice to not have to pay for security personnel.

Please read carefully what Nick was interested in: http://szabo.best.vwh.net

Theory of property, origins of money, methods of protecting rights, origins of joint-stock companies. Almost every article is a motivation for building Bitcoin. And Nick is not just some economist, he is a capable programmer with knowledge in cryptography too. Do you know anyone else who could understand all these long-term aspects of Bitcoin and could carefully build a practical system over two years which most of the economists and most of the engineers would immediately dismiss for tons of "shortcomings"?

If it's not Szabo, it's someone who is very much like him.

Give this man his privacy.

Another theory equally consistent with this analysis: Satoshi (or the 'Satoshi' team) contacted Szabo for help writing the paper.

Thus it incorporated some of Szabo's preferred language choices, but Szabo is still "not Satoshi" and has his own deep and distinct criticisms/appreciations of the Satoshi work.

Finney had the technical chops, Dai had b-money, and Szabo had the economic knowledge.

They've each done a lot of misdirection to the other two in order to draw attention away from them.

This lets them each say "I am not Satoshi Nakamoto" and not be lying.

Bitcoin 0.1 probably did not require cooperation to work out well. Just one dedicated person could do it and have help of early participants to solve silly problems (e.g. famous OP_RETURN bug and integer overflow). Nick was pretty good in economics to not ask suggestions on core parameters from anyone else. And both Dai and Finney already had their input in their public writings, so no necessity to ask them for more.

One person could do it - but along with coming up with the exact solution to the global view problem, did they?

Moreover is Szabo such a good programmer that Dan Kaminskey's auditing of the code for security holes would have caused him to say that he's never seen a programmer so good? That every likely bug was already found and plugged fairly early on?

Whoever programmed BitCoin didn't write the prettiest code in the world, but it was very good, and certainly good enough code to be written by someone who spends a ton of time programming. Nick Szabo seems to spend a lot of his time on other things not related to programming.

What makes me think it wasn't Finney was that Finney was one of the two first people to respond to Satoshi when the paper was dropped on the cryptography mailing list. There is extensive back and forth between Donald, Finney and Satoshi, mostly Finney and Donald critiquing the whitepaper and Satoshi defending it.

Of course that would be the perfect thing to do if you were trying to draw attention away from yourself.

Btw, Hal Finney was diagnosed around 2009 with ALS (in his words, in reality it could have been earlier) which is a plausible reason for rushing source code out with unfinished market implementation and some silly bugs. Also, Hal's ALS progressed in 2011 and he retired: another reason for Satoshi to abandon the project as he (if he's Hal) could no longer support it secretly on his own.

I don't support all the effort people put into identifying this person. They clearly want to remain anonymous and being publicly known could possibly be bad for them. And knowing who it was makes no difference.

To up the conspiracy theories a bit, do you think it's at all possible that someone skilled in programming and cryptography, well-versed in English and with a priority for keeping his identity secret, just might attempt to obfuscate his language by altering his writing style? If you don't think that's entirely unlikely then you'd better adjust your p-value.

Why is it important who Satoshi is?

It's important because whoever Satoshi is controls a significant number of bitcoins [1]. This gives them a large ability to affect the market for bitcoins and is a potential risk if they ever choose to do so. I'm sure for many people, they'd like to protect their investments into bitcoin, so knowing the identity of Satoshi is important to them.

[1] http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/bitcoin-mints-its-first-bil...

How does this relate to knowing who Satoshi is? Are you implying that Bitcoin investors should pressurise or threaten Satoshi in some way? That is disturbing...

Whoa, talking about going overboard. I'm implying no such thing.

What I am saying is that if you're investing into bitcoin it's intelligent to know what you're getting into. Satoshi currently controls around 12% of all bitcoins. And even with the maximum number Satoshi will control 7% of all bitcoins.

This is huge potential to disrupt the market and knowing what the person or people who are Satoshi might do has a potentially huge investment impact. Hence the reason that people have the desire to know who Satoshi is.

And you think that if you know the true name of Satoshi, you will have a chance of knowing what they might do? How exactly does that work? Will they suddenly put up their hand and say "Yup, it's me. From now on, I'm going to give advance notice of everything I will do that is bitcoin related" ? That makes no sense.

So, there's a wallet with a large number of bitcoins in it. Does it matter who owns it? Is it likely that the owner (named or otherwise unknown) is going to give you a heads-up before they sell any?

If he/she dies their heirs will want to liquidate their estate. This event by far will lead to the largest flood of BTC on the market. Look for a big crash 0 to 40 years from now.

No one would dumb enough to ruin their own fortune by trying to liquidate it all at once, so no that's not going to happen.

he is one man that can destroy the market in one click.

I honestly prefer the mystery to remain, but therein lies the challenge for those whose noses twitch at a good mystery and a show of intellectual prowess that is demanded to unmask a supposedly ghost-like figure.

It is not important: it is interesting for some people. A historian might use the term "important" but curiosity is the source of a lot of human endeavours.

If bitcoin is successful in the long run then Satoshi will become extremely rich, maybe one of the wealthiest people in the world. I think it makes finding out who it is more than mere "voyeurism". Imagine if some extremist group hides behind the Satoshi sockpuppet for instance. At that point I'd say it's unlikely but far from impossible.

I did not try to sound critical: curiosity is what drives my research as a mathematician.

We might not know the answer to why it is important, until we know who he is.

It's not particularly important, but it would be interesting to know, and if Bitcoin succeeds he could easily become the wealthiest person in the world.

Do Japanese use anglicized "colour" & "favour" etc?

If so, I would only expect an inconsistent application of this spelling if he were impersonating a Japanese person writing in English (though the same could be assumed if there were multiple writers).

"Colour" and "favour" are predominate in every English-speaking country except the U.S. (eg: Canada prefers "colour.")

Yeah, but what are people who learn English taught?

For example, the books in my Bavarian school seemed to slightly prefer the British English spelling (but the vocabulary always also included the American English spelling and later on we were reading lots of American and British text intermixed) and for tests the teacher always told us that she didn’t care which spelling we picked, all that mattered to her was that we were consistent (i.e. use either only British English or only American English).

I always picked American English but the preference of the books of British English screwed me up somewhat, so I will sometimes mistakenly use both variants in one text. For me it would consequently not seem obvious that someone using both variants is a native speaker who tries to fake another spelling variant.

It's my experience that Europeans are taught British English in schools (due to the easy availability of teachers from the U.K.)

Japan, Korea and China very likely are mixed between British English teachers (from India and Australia) and American English teachers (from the U.S.) In Japan in the late 80s-early 90s, there was a definite preference for American English teachers.

Are English teachers in many European countries native speakers?

I have only very limited experience, but from my experience in Bavaria (education is a state responsibility in Germany, that’s why I’m constantly only talking about Bavaria) I can say that none of the foreign-language teachers I’m aware of (of any available foreign language, English, French, Spanish, Czech) were native speakers. They were all Germans.

You might be surprised what kind of inconsistencies you'll find in individuals, even restricting yourself to native speakers. I was born and raised in the US and only recently realized that distinguishing "storey" (of a building) and "story" (a tale) is British usage; I had been writing it that way my whole life unaware that in my country we're supposed to only use the latter spelling.

My father spent his first years in the UK and as a kid I picked up a few verbal things from him (most of them disappeared later on). I still think I'm more likely than most people I know to say things like "whilst" or "amongst".

It's unlikely Nakamoto is actually Japanese, but I'd imagine a Japanese person would use American spellings considering it is the US that Japan deals with and they typically are taught American English.

Whilst it's true that the American standard is taught in Japanese schools, people come out of schools not speaking much English. To achieve a native-level ability in English, a Japanese person would probably have spent significant time in an English-speaking country, and that's likely to be a larger influence on their usage.

(I have lived in Japan in the past.)

Oh, sure. Japan pours tons of money into English education and little comes of it.

Pretty much everyone has come to the conclusion that Satoshi is probably not Japanese. He has seemingly native command of academic English, and nothing about him suggests Japanese influence except the pseudonym.

> nothing about him suggests Japanese influence except the pseudonym.

The hosting of Bitcoin.org and email software were Japanese.

The usage of "-our" vs. "-or" will not tell us anything because any author attempting to conceal his identity would obviously be aware of the perceived differences in usage. So it's essentially irrelevant.

I wonder what randomwalker, who has done serious research on textual deanonymization, thinks about this.

I've suggested it to him in the past. He apparently is not interested.

I find this pretty convincing. First JK Rowling is foxed by textual analysis, and now this.

I do think it was a group, and Nick was part of it. So his denials are technically accurate.

Of course, we can go further than just the paper. Why not check out Satoshi's posts and compare them with Nick's blogging style?

JK Rowling is foxed by textual analysis

Was she? The way I recall was that she was first outed on twitter and only then did the textual analysis people come out and claim that they could prove the book was written by Rowling. I'm not aware of any textual analysis that pointed the finger at Rowling prior to the twitter reveal.

Tuning an algorithm to give you the right answer when you already know the answer isn't that impressive

So in this case, can we go further and analyze Satoshi's posts and emails?

Can we find code written by Szabo and see find if the style or certain idioms are close to Bitcoin 0.1?

Clearly Satoshi Nakamoto is the guy who did the Max Headroom pirate broadcast.

The "Bit gold" post's date, and only the date, had changed in the Oct 17, 2009 wayback machine crawl, though I couldn't tell you whether that means anything or not.

>Repeated use of expression “trusted third party”

That is like saying you uniquely identified someone based on repeated use of the expression "Q.E.D" in a mathematics paper.

Satoshi Nakamoto: single-handedly turning HN into a tabloid magazine for the cryptographic paparazzi. Except that no one gets paid, so that makes it okay, right?

Satoshi Nakamoto = SN. Nick Szabo = NS. SN & NS.

Is there also a chance that whoever Satoshi is asked Nick to write a paper, since he would understand the content and technology?

This is how a witch hunt begins - if he wanted everyone to know his name, he wouldn't be using a pseudonym.

Okay, all this witch hunt is becoming crazy. I'll come clean: I am Satoshi.

And Spartacus. And possibly Batman. Any questions?

(Related: http://www.leasticoulddo.com/comic/20090330/)

Are we even sure it is one person? I've heard the algorithms and techniques used make it probable that more than one person was behind this. I would have no idea where to begin searching so anyone's guess is a good as mine.

It would be a great boon to BitCoin to know the identity of the creators.

Particularly if the unmasked progenitor(s) proved that they had actually destroyed the early Coins, that would help stabilize and legitimize the currency.

Could you expand upon the feasibility and the benefits of proving you had destroyed earlier coins?

I'm not calling into question what you say, just curious as to what you mean.

If Satoshi holds ~1M BTC it means he can crash the market at any time. In some people's minds that risk reduces the value of Bitcoin. But if he could prove that he doesn't, that risk goes away. Also, if Satoshi could prove he's not rich then people will stop trying to kidnap him.

Thanks to you and gambiting for providing what I guessed may be the benefits, I'm still confused about the feasibility. Can you prove something doesn't exist?

That is a problem. AFAIK it is possible to generate unspendable Bitcoin addresses without any private key in a way that could be revealed later (e.g. with a PRNG or deterministic wallet), but it's also possible that Satoshi generated normal key pairs and deleted them which would leave him with no way to prove that they were deleted.

That would (in a way) show the world that they created the currency for it to be a legitimate thing,and not just a scheme to make bitcoin popular and then cash in millions few years later. Or at least that's how some people would see it, if "satoshi" tried spending/turning into cash thousands of bitcoins he/she/they has/have.

Even if it is him, leave him be. I don't want the feds on his ass! :p

The Feds created Bitcoin and used it as a honeypot. The whole currency will dissolve due to its links to the criminal underground. That's my guess...

Very unlikely. Much more likely explanation is that Satoshi was influenced by him and uses similar terms. AFAIK Szabo is a lawyer / historian.

"Satoshi Nakamoto was a highly skilled computer scientist"

Nonsense. If you actually look at Satoshi's work, he was almost certainly an amateur and a cryptography enthusiast. That some software is popular is not an indication that it is the work of a highly skilled computer scientist; here is a simple and obvious counterexample:


Did you even read the article? That statement is prefaced by "According to what seems to be a widely accepted origin story of Bitcoin, ...", meaning that's what many people assume.

Then right after, his thesis is to contrast that: "I would argue that Satoshi is actually Nick Szabo himself, probably together with one or more technical collaborators"

Did you read the article? He is saying that Satoshi was someone with experience as a researcher, someone who had authored many articles in the past. The Bitcoin whitepaper and Bitcoin itself suggest nothing of the sort; they suggest that Bitcoin was the work of someone with limited research experience.

I'm guessing this has something to do with your username, so what is the better unix? BSD? Minix?

If Nick is Satoshi then its brilliant idea. Because it removes any heat from him while having shit load of BitCoins ^_^

I am only certain of one thing when it comes to bitcoin, the creator(s) are not Japanese.

This is unfortunate that the described method tends to prove nothing.

This whole thing reads like "Bible Code" logic.

  I went looking for an obscure pattern and found an inconclusive curiosity, therefore, apocalypse!

People still chasing this guy? Bitcoin has much bigger problems than the identity of its inventor(s).

oh oh.. this again.

Repeat after me: correlation does not imply causation.

Nobody is trying to discover any causation here.

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