Clipped from: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/opinion/et-commentary/the-creator-of-bitcoin-remains-mysterious-for-a-reason-unhooding-him-could-bring-them-crashing-down/articleshow/88780025.cmsSynopsis
The 2021 British dark comedy directed by Tom Sands, Decrypted, is about a US National Security Agency team that kidnaps Nakamoto, and tortures him in an attempt to winkle out information that will destroy the entire cryptocurrency industry
Professor, Indian Statistical Institute, KolkataThe first statue of bitcoin’s pseudonymous creator Satoshi Nakamoto, unveiled in September 2021 in Budapest, wears a hoodie having the bitcoin logo engraved on it and the face sculpted with vague features to represent Nakamoto’s anonymity – one of the greatest mysteries of recent times. Elon Musk recently jumped into this identity controversy when on a podcast interview (bit.ly/3eJs5s2) with MIT artificial intelligence researcher Lex Fridman, the Tesla CEO said he believes computer scientist Nicholas Szabo, who had proposed the creation of the digital currency BitGold in 1998, checks all the right boxes, even as Szabo has gone on record denying that he is Nakamoto.
Claimed to be a 46-year-old man based in Japan, the presumably pseudonymous Nakamoto has had other contenders – Australian entrepreneur Craig Wright, Finnish economic sociologist Vili Lehdonvirta, Irish student Michael Clear, Japanese mathematician Shinichi Mochizuki, British cryptographer and inventor of bitcoin’s predecessor, Hashcash, Adam Back. Even Musk has been floated as a potential creator of bitcoin. Some even believe that Nakamoto’s code was too well designed for one person.
The 2021 British dark comedy directed by Tom Sands, Decrypted, is about a US National Security Agency team that kidnaps Nakamoto, and tortures him in an attempt to winkle out information that will destroy the entire cryptocurrency industry. That Nakamoto could manage to remain pseudonymous while releasing his October 2008 paper, ‘Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System’ (bit.ly/3EQgPVF), kickstarting the network, following it up with a final email in April 2011 is no less a thriller.
Some believe that Nakamoto is dead (possibly having been the American computer scientist Hal Finney who passed away in 2014) and hence remains anonymous. Or maybe that he is in jail, like the Zimbabwe- and South Africa-raised programmer and international criminal mastermind Paul Le Roux, making him incommunicado to the public.
The Banksy-like anonymity may be for Nakamoto’s own safety. Bernard von NotHaus was convicted in 2011 for creating his own private currency in the US, the Liberty Dollar. And Ross Ulbricht, the creator and operator of the infamous dark web marketplace Silk Road, was sentenced to life in prison in 2015.
The bitcoin saga can be illustrated by a hypothetical story. Suppose you visit a street-side samosa stall every evening. With your and a few of your friends’ patronage, its popularity soars, and the samosa price there becomes ₹10 from the earlier ₹5 a piece. Soon thousands of people start to gather every day. As the samosa-seller is capable of preparing only 500 pieces daily, he starts to sell samosa coupons instead, ‘open’ to get a samosa on any day.
People start buying them from other places at a higher price and ‘hold’ them. Somebody kickstarts other economic activities by purchasing, say, a pizza using a coupon. A parallel currency system gets initiated. Suddenly the samosa-seller vanishes. There’s no samosa, but a lot of coupons floating around – some bought for ₹10, while some for as high as ₹10,000.
The trading of coupons continues, and by generating new coupons by using high-capacity computers, the total number is limited to 21 million. The cryptic samosa-seller may have kept some coupons for himself – that he could sell at some opportune moment. What if the ‘samosa-seller’- Satoshi Nakamoto – is unmasked now?
About a year ago, cryptocurrency trading platform Coinbase stated that if Nakamoto is unmasked, it could cause bitcoin prices to fall. If Nakamoto ever chooses to transfer his/her/their cache of bitcoins — believed to be nearly 5% of the entire bitcoin market — it could destabilise the entire crypto market.
Also, any commentary by Nakamoto could be interpreted as investment advice leading to price movements. The creator of Litecoin (LTC), Charlie Lee, sold all his LTC holdings due to such a possibility. Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin is also not too excited that the community assigns so much importance to him. As Adam Back suggested, ‘For bitcoin to keep a commodity-like perception, I think it’s a very good thing that Satoshi stays out of the public eye.’
For the time being, Nakamoto’s identity remains ‘cryptic’. Bitcoin, certainly, has outgrown its creator(s). Decrypting the Nakamoto mystery, however, has the impetus for future thrillers.