How Bitcoin's Not So Secret Satoshi Nakamoto Was Discovered (Hint: Phone Book)

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Newsweek claims to have identified the mysterious creator of Bitcoin. Satoshi Nakamoto - long believed to be a pseudonym - was hunted down through searches, conversations, and national archives: "It was only while scouring a database that contained the registration cards of naturalized U.S. citizens that a Satoshi Nakamoto turned up whose profile and background offered a potential match. But it was not until after ordering his records from the National Archives and conducting many more interviews that a cohesive picture began to take shape."  

Some remain skeptical that Newsweek have found him but making such a bold claim is aggressive and comments from Bitcoin lead developer Gavin Anderson suggest this is the real Satoshi.

 

Newsweek explains how they found him:

There are several Satoshi Nakamotos living in North America and beyond - both dead and alive - including a Ralph Lauren menswear designer in New York and another who died in Honolulu in 2008, according to the Social Security Index's Death Master File. There's even one on LinkedIn who claims to have started Bitcoin and is based in Japan. But none of these profiles seem to fit other known details and few of the leads proved credible.

 

Of course, there is also the chance "Satoshi Nakamoto" is a pseudonym, but that raises the question why someone who wishes to remain anonymous would choose such a distinctive name.

 

It was only while scouring a database that contained the registration cards of naturalized U.S. citizens that a Satoshi Nakamoto turned up whose profile and background offered a potential match.

 

But it was not until after ordering his records from the National Archives and conducting many more interviews that a cohesive picture began to take shape.

We suspect people will be a little disappointed that he is not wearing a cape and looks conventionally like a standard Japanese tourist (who lives in Temple City, CA)...

Not even his family knew...

 

But Liberty Blitzkrieg's Mike Krieger is modestly skeptical - though has some interesting perspective:

...

At the end of the day, since no one can really prove the story right or wrong, it’s certainly possible the magazine merely agreed that it sounded plausible enough and decided it was worth the risk given the page views it would generate.

I tend to have decent intuition on these things, and as I was reading it, something appeared to be off. Perhaps it was the writer’s style, or perhaps just the strangeness of this guy’s personality, but it read a bizarrely to me. The way the guy calls the cops when she shows up to his door. Why would the person who created Bitcoin respond in that way? Also, while on the surface it might seem clever to use your real name in an attempt to remain anonymous, it isn’t really. Everyone trying to figure out who you are will start with searches of Satoshi Nakamoto no matter how stupid it seems.

The one thing that is causing many to speculate that this story is accurate, is the following tweet from Bitcoin core developer Gavin Andresen:

 

 

 

This definitely reads as if Gavin is confirming the article, but it is still unclear to me whether Gavin himself knew Satoshi’s identity, or if he was just communicating with a digital person while working on Bitcoin.

From my perspective, something seems off in this article.

Nevertheless, here are some excerpts, come to your own conclusion:

Two police officers from the Temple City, Calif., sheriff’s department flank him, looking puzzled. “So, what is it you want to ask this man about?” one of them asks me. “He thinks if he talks to you he’s going to get into trouble.”

 

“I don’t think he’s in any trouble,” I say. “I would like to ask him about Bitcoin. This man is Satoshi Nakamoto.” 

 

“What?” The police officer balks. “This is the guy who created Bitcoin? It looks like he’s living a pretty humble life.” 

 

Tacitly acknowledging his role in the Bitcoin project, he looks down, staring at the pavement and categorically refuses to answer questions.

Ok, this is the first sentence that reads strangely. How did he acknowledge his role? By staring down? Not convincing.

I’d come here to try to find out more about Nakamoto and his humble life. It seemed ludicrous that the man credited with inventing Bitcoin – the world’s most wildly successful digital currency, with transactions of nearly $500 million a day at its peak – would retreat to Los Angeles’s San Bernardino foothills, hole up in the family home and leave his estimated $400 million of Bitcoin riches untouched. It seemed similarly implausible that Nakamoto’s first response to my knocking at his door would be to call the cops. Now face to face, with two police officers as witnesses, Nakamoto’s responses to my questions about Bitcoin were careful but revealing.

Not only does it seem implausible, it seems absurd to me. You are just asking for attention and to be outed by doing that.

Far from leading to a Tokyo-based whiz kid using the name “Satoshi Nakamoto” as a cipher or pseudonym (a story repeated by everyone from Bitcoin’s rabid fans to The New Yorker), the trail followed by Newsweek led to a 64-year-old Japanese-American man whose name really is Satoshi Nakamoto. He is someone with a penchant for collecting model trains and a career shrouded in secrecy, having done classified work for major corporations and the U.S. military.

 

Nakamoto ceased responding to emails I’d sent him immediately after I began asking about Bitcoin. This was in late February. Before that, I’d also asked about his professional background, for which there is very little to be found in the public record. I only received evasive answers.

 

When he asked about my background, I told him I’d be happy to elaborate over the phone and called him to introduce myself. When there was no response, I asked his oldest son, Eric Nakamoto, 31, to reach out and see whether his father would talk about Bitcoin. The message came back he would not. Attempts through other family members also failed.

 

After that, Nakamoto disregarded my requests to speak by phone and did not return calls. The day I arrived at his modest, single-family home in southern California, his silver Toyota Corolla CE was parked in the driveway but he didn’t answer the door.

“My brother is an asshole. What you don’t know about him is that he’s worked on classified stuff. His life was a complete blank for a while. You’re not going to be able to get to him. He’ll deny everything. He’ll never admit to starting Bitcoin.”

 

For nearly a year, Andresen corresponded with the founder of Bitcoin a few times a week, often putting in 40-hour weeks refining the Bitcoin code. Throughout their correspondence, Nakamoto’s evasiveness was his hallmark, Andresen says.

 

In fact, he never even heard Nakamoto’s voice, because the founder of Bitcoin would not communicate by phone. Their interactions, he says, always took place by “email or private message on the Bitcointalk forum,” where enthusiasts meet online.

So does Gavin’s tweet mean anything if he didn’t actually know the identity himself?

“He was the kind of person who, if you made an honest mistake, he might call you an idiot and never speak to you again,” Andresen says. “Back then, it was not clear that creating Bitcoin might be a legal thing to do. He went to great lengths to protect his anonymity.”

 

“I got the impression that Satoshi was really doing it for political reasons,” says Andresen, who gets paid in Bitcoins – along with a half-dozen other Bitcoin core developers working everywhere from Silicon Valley to Switzerland – by the Bitcoin Foundation, a nonprofit working to standardize the currency.

 

He doesn’t like the system we have today and wanted a different one that would be more equal. He did not like the notion of banks and bankers getting wealthy just because they hold the keys,” says Andresen.

 

Communication with Bitcoin’s founder was becoming less frequent by early 2011. Nakamoto stopped posting changes to the Bitcoin code and ignored conversations on the Bitcoin forum.

 

Andresen was unprepared, however, for Satoshi Nakamoto’s reaction to an email exchange between them on April 26, 2011.

 

“I wish you wouldn’t keep talking about me as a mysterious shadowy figure,” Nakamoto wrote to Andresen. “The press just turns that into a pirate currency angle.  Maybe instead make it about the open source project and give more credit to your dev contributors; it helps motivate them.”

 

Andresen responded: “Yeah, I’m not happy with the ‘wacky pirate money’ tone, either.”

 

Then he told Nakamoto he’d accepted an invitation to speak at the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters. “I hope that by talking directly to them and, more importantly, listening to their questions/concerns, they will think of Bitcoin the way I do – as a just-plain-better, more efficient, less-subject-to-political-whims money,” he said. “Not as an all-powerful black-market tool that will be used by anarchists to overthrow the System.”

 

From that moment, Satoshi Nakamoto stopped responding to emails and dropped off the map.

 

Descended from Samurai and the son of a Buddhist priest, Nakamoto was born in July 1949 in the city of Beppu, Japan, where he was brought up poor in the Buddhist tradition by his mother, Akiko. In 1959, after a divorce and remarriage, she immigrated to California, taking her three sons with her. Now age 93, she lives with Nakamoto in Temple City.

 

Of course, none of this puts to rest the biggest question of all – the one that only Satoshi Nakamoto himself can answer: What has kept him from spending his hundreds of millions of dollars of Bitcoin, which he reaped when he launched the currency years ago? According to his family both he – and they – could really use the money.

Full article here.