A simple text website called the Nakamoto Family Foundation displays what it claims to be a section of a book written by Satoshi Nakamoto, the unidentified creator of Bitcoin.
The website is dated June 29 and was published on June 30. It explains that the book (“literary work”) will be in two parts, but there is “no guarantee the book will ever come to be, unless it becomes necessary and people want to know about me personally.”
The website offers a little cryptography game to work out the title of the book. The answer is “Honne and Tatemae” – Japanese terms describing an individual’s inner state and displayed state respectively.
The excerpt is 21 pages long and is entitled “Duality”. For the purposes of this article, I will assume that Nakamoto is the author, although this is far from certain.
The text begins by explaining that Satoshi Nakamoto is a code name, the Japanese equivalent of John Smith, not the legal name of anyone involved in the creation of Bitcoin. In addition, it clarifies that the name does not represent a group – “…for the first year, it really was mostly myself who was the sole and active participant in the network. I was both maintaining it, using it, making changes to the code, fixing bugs, and promoting its use.”
The writer talks about the early days of Bitcoin, revealing a few interesting facts about the project and himself. He describes himself as a cyberpunk from the age of 14 (which would mean a birth date of the early ’70s), and that the idea of anonymous electronic transactions preceded him by almost twenty years. However, David Chaum’s ‘Untraceable Electronic Cash’, unlike Bitcoin, was not decentralised.
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The writer says that it was difficult at first to understand why Bitcoin took off when other projects (“the thousands upon thousands of projects that preceded it and have since surpassed it”) did not, but he realised that the key to its success is the fact that Bitcoin concerns money, which is something that people care about. In addition to this, Bitcoin worries the incumbent financial systems because of its advantages.
The text refers a lot to Mike Hearn, a British programmer who was involved in the early development of Bitcoin but who sold off all of his bitcoins in December 2015 after deeming the project a failure. His concerns included scaling, specialised mining computers (ASICs), and the security of the protocol and users’ incentive to stick to it.
Hearn though was never really interested in his (Nakamoto’s) identity, unlike others whose curiosity was piqued by the fact that he wrote in perfect English (and nothing in Japanese) while assuming a Japanese name. People ascertained that he was of British descent by analysing his writing, and that he was active from 01:00 – 07:00 from timestamps, meaning that he must have been active on the east coast of the US.
He shares that his mother is an author, he was a runner-up in a spelling bee competition in fourth grade (ages 9–10), and that at one time he worked as a university professor. He writes that Bitcoin was the product of two years of hard work, and the only other person who really stuck at it was the late Hal Finney, a computer scientist from California who passed away in 2014.
The writer says he was “the person responsible for the first reusable proof of work system” and the first person that he ever sent coins to. He adds that without Finney’s support, the project may not have come off.
He says that Bitcoin was built for scale: “If for example, on May 7th, 2140 one ‘satoshi’ were to reach parity with one US dollar, then the true market cap bitcoin could reach would in fact be two quadrillion, one hundred trillion or two thousand trillion, one hundred thousand billion depending on which shorthand you prefer.”
Other interesting tidbits include that the blockchain was once called the timechain and that forks were once called branch points, and that the whitepaper was written after the software had been finished – “as it should be, unlike the norm today.”