Satoshi Nakamoto has finally stepped out of his own shadow and it turns out that his real name is….Satoshi Nakamoto. After years of speculation about the identity of the presumably reclusive Japanese computer genius, it turns out that he is not Japanese, although he is of Japanese ancestry, not reclusive except to the extent that he avoids publicity and an even bigger mystery than first thought.
Far from being the secretive Japanese wunderkind everyone was led to believe he was, Nakamoto turns out to be 64-year-old computer scientist who lives in a modest “Southern California” home, drives a Toyota Corolla and really does not want any publicity. He is an American, has a degree in physics, not computer science, from California State’s Polytechnic University and restores model trains for a hobby.
And not much else is known about Nakamoto, who is very reticent about himself, and equally evasive about his role in the development of the Bitcoin project with which he is now permanently associated. Very little is therefore known about his personal history, which appears to have included stints working for the U.S. military and private corporations doing undisclosed things for them.
Satoshi Nakamoto may not be the mystery man we thought he was, but he may have been a spook, someone involved in clandestine activities of one sort or another. His own brother, Arthur Nakamoto, told Wired correspondent John Biggs that his brother is an “asshole” who worked for the government doing secret stuff.
Satoshi Nakamoto changed his name to Dorian Prentice in the 1970s, but seems to use the two names interchangeably. He lives with his 93 year-old mother, collects model trains, and is sitting on a stash of Bitcoin worth around $400 million, which he refuses to spend because he doesn’t want to be involved in the Bitcoin madness.
Now that the cat is out of the bag, people are coming forward to explain that Nakamoto was involved n the early stages of the Bitcoin development, working closely with the “progenitors” of the Bitcoin movement, but dropped out of the scene in 2011. This unsourced statement in the Wired article does two things. It suggests that Nakamoto was, if anything, a hired gun brought in to write the code on which the Bitcoin process is based. It also suggests that there were other unnamed players in the Bitcoin scenario who were the real motivation behind the project, diminishing Nakamoto’s role in the development process.
It sounds a little bit like sour grapes. The anarchistic participants in the Bitcoin frenzy, who are usually young, hip, counter-cultural and anti-establishment, are, it seems, embarrassed to discover that the shadowy figure they have been worshiping from afar as the financial revolutionary they thought he was has turned out to be a retired, middle-aged spook who drives a Corolla, lives with his mother and collects model trains.
However is he really the Satoshi Nakamoto who wrote the seminal paper that launched the Bitcoin movement publicly in 2009, or were other individuals using his name as a work name to cover themselves? That is an interesting question because covert operatives working for the U.S. government often adopt work names to keep their real identities hidden, with the presumption that they would be able to able to return to their lives – and their real names – at the end of their service.
“Jack Spratt,” a retired Marine Corps general who spent his entire career, after Vietnam, in clandestine operations, claims that he worked Satoshi Nakamoto in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand in the 1970s. After his combat duty days, “Spratt” (the name is pseudonymous, of course) earned a Ph.D in computer science, and did clandestine things with computers, but he was once involved in running field agents for the CIA.
“One of the most difficult problems we faced when working with ‘assets’ who were foreign nationals was getting work funds and compensation to them without leaving a paper trail. Back in the day, we speculated about the possibility of transferring funds through computer drafts, but this Bitcoin thing is an absolutely fantastic way to transfer funds invisibly. I’m impressed.”
Speculations about “Satoshi Nakamoto’s” identity included observations that he probably wasn’t Japanese because he wrote in a vernacular American pattern. The absence of Japanese in his programming notes also suggested that he wasn’t a native Japanese. Others speculated that the “British-isms” such as “bloody hard” in Nakamoto’s prose indicated that he was either British or living in a British Commonwealth country. Stefan Thomas, an active member of the bitcoin community, analyzed the time stamps on posts that “Satoshi Nakamoto” made on the Bitcoin website and determined that the not-so-elusive Nakamoto lived somewhere in the United States from the East Coast to the Mountain States, rather than in Japan.
A number of prominent names, as well as some unknown ones, have been proposed as the real identity of the unknown Satoshi Nakamoto. None of the proposed have ever admitted to being Satoshi Nakamoto…but this one, the real one, had no qualms about admitting that he was him.
‘This story doesn’t end there. Remember the Shakespeare Question? One of the most prominent (if sadly erroneous) theories about the identity of The Bard of Avon was that someone else – someone with a reputation to protect – wrote the plays and used Shakespeare as a pseudonym, with the ill-schooled Bard playing that role in public to shift suspicion away from the actual author of the plays.
In covert circles, it is a common practice to set up a “fall guy” to take the blame for an action, someone who – though innocent – was a plausible suspect. This Satoshi Nakamoto could be that kind of “fall guy:” a plausible suspect that is being offered up to provide cover for the real “Satoshi Nakamoto.”
Satoshi Nakamoto may have stepped out of his own shadow, but we still do not know whether he is the real “Satoshi Nakamoto” or just the the real Satoshi Nakaomoto’s beard. One never knows.
By Alan M. Milner