Neal Stephenson, Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin
A new theory holds that science fiction legend Neal Stephenson – of “Snow Crash” fame – is the mysterious creator of Bitcoin. Does he fit the bill? | Source: Wikimedia Commons (i), Shutterstock (ii). Image Edited by CCN.

By CCN: A recent article in Reason suggests that there’s a reason to believe that science fiction author Neal Stephenson might be Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto.

The article starts:

“Consider the possibility that Neal Stephenson is Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous inventor of Bitcoin.”

Let’s Not Go Around Calling People Satoshi Nakamoto

Let’s not do that. That’s like saying let’s consider the possibility that anyone at all is Satoshi Nakamoto. In one respect, it doesn’t matter. In another, it’s exhausting the lengths people will go with this. This reporter recently received an e-mail illustrating a firm belief, from a serious crypto CEO, as to the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto.

In any case, if someone doesn’t advance the idea that they are Satoshi Nakamoto themselves, there’s no reason to put that sort of grief upon them. If someone is just brilliant, you can tell them that without insinuating that they invented the blockchain and Bitcoin.

The author uses the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto rather casually. He writes:

“I am not saying that Neal Stephenson is Satoshi Nakamoto. What I am saying is: Would it really be surprising if he were?”

Casual Use of a Serious Bitcoin Mystery

The answer: of course it would be surprising! It would be surprising if anyone at all emerged with proof that they are Satoshi Nakamoto. We have one guy who intends to use courts to do that. That’s a separate matter from providing cryptographic proof. That guy loves the attention of claiming he’s Satoshi Nakamoto.

This, on the other hand, seems like unfair attention – it’s going to serve as a magnet for negativity from certain people. You don’t just off-handedly claim someone might be Satoshi Nakamoto. There needs to be a reason. Yes, it would be surprising. No, it wouldn’t be “just one more accomplishment.” It would be his, or anyone’s, crowning achievement in life.

Thus we get a bit of writing which ignores the vast collection of texts which described a system like Bitcoin long before it was created.

“Stephenson, in other words, described the core concepts of cryptocurrency years before Bitcoin became a technical reality. At a bare minimum, you can be sure he spent a lot of time thinking about these concepts and the technical challenges they might pose. Even if Stephenson had no direct role in the creation of Bitcoin, it is hard to imagine that its creators were not aware of, and likely heavily influenced by, his writing.”

This could be true, but he would be far from the only one. The blockchain’s primary genius was solving a problem of trust between users. By using decentralized ledgers and blocks, the Bitcoin system was able to get around having a single trusted party.

Instead, everyone trusted each other about the same: everyone is forced to follow the rules in order to use the system. Thus users don’t have to rely on a potentially corrupt third party.

With good reason, we’ll conclude that the evidence for this random fiction writer being Satoshi Nakamoto is about as strong as any other evidence we’ve seen to date: that is, not strong at all.

This article was edited by Josiah Wilmoth.

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