Satoshi Nakamoto (artist rendering)
On April 26, 2011, Bitcoin developer Satoshi Nakamoto sent his final emails to other developers clarifying that he had “moved on to other projects” when he handed over a cryptographic key that he had used to send network-wide warnings .
A look back at 2021 and Bitcoin history is beginning in many ways. With the price hitting new highs above $ 60,000, Nakamoto’s invention – digital money free from the control of any central party or government – and its need is increasingly recognized.
Bitcoin is now heralded by musicians, politicians and human rights activists and is in the middle of a mainstream moment. However, much remains a mystery about the still unknown Satoshi Nakamoto.
It is for this reason that I have published new research today which is the first time a comprehensive study of Satoshi Nakamoto’s time as the main developer of the Bitcoin Project.
Under the title “The Last Days of Satoshi: What Happened When the Creator of Bitcoin Disappeared” takes a comprehensive look at what Satoshi went through to bring Bitcoin to market and the decisions he made as a developer continued after his absence.
Based on six months of research, the work includes over 120 quotes where readers can see the full context of the conversation about some of Bitcoin’s infamous moments, including a notable meeting at CIA headquarters and the first change of power in the project.
With that in mind, I wanted to share some things I learned from researching Satoshi and his early work as a manager of the Bitcoin code.
If you are new to cryptocurrency, I hope these results encourage you to dig deeper into the history of Bitcoin.
1. Satoshi believed Bitcoin was an alternative to central banking
Over the years there have been a number of attempts to rename Satoshi as someone interested only in disrupting banking or payments, most of which sparked their own interpretation of the news article engraved on the first block of the Bitcoin blockchain.
But even if you go beyond what’s right in the code, some of Satoshi’s earliest public messages were directly about issues with issuing currencies.
As he wrote on the P2P Foundation Forum in February 2009:
“The main problem with traditional currencies is the trust it takes to make it work. The central bank must be trusted not to devalue the currency, but the history of fiat currencies is full of violations of that trust. The banks must be trusted to hold and electronically transfer our money, but they lend it in waves of credit bubbles with hardly a fraction of the reserve. “
Contrary to what critics might say, Satoshi frequently mentioned central banks and money printing as issues that were of concern in the creation of his invention.
Read another of his earliest answers: “Indeed, to Sepp’s question, there is no one acting as a central bank or federal reserve to adjust the money supply as the population of users grows.”
2. Satoshi was active behind the scenes after “leaving” Bitcoin
Prior to this new investigation, it was known that Satoshi’s last message was on the Bitcoin forums in December 2010 and that he sent a final message to the developers on April 26, 2011. What happened in between was less clear.
Thanks to new emails from Gavin Andresen, a developer who worked directly with Satoshi and took over the project in his absence, this image has now evolved.
Indeed, there has been some back-and-forth between Satoshi and other developers, particularly in terms of how to deal with the advertising the project received at the time, including technical issues.
I don’t think this piece will bring us any closer to understanding why Satoshi disappeared at precisely this point, but my conclusion from research is that by the time he left, Bitcoin had already outgrown the need for a single guide.
3. Satoshi knew that Bitcoin was a scientific breakthrough
I’m not sure why I found this fact so strange, but I do. I am talking about a subpage on the original Bitcoin.org website where Satoshi claims that Bitcoin solved the “Byzantine General” problem that has been widely attributed to him ever since.
It’s a bit baffling to think that not only could Satoshi come up with something really new, but could contextualize the performance so specifically.
It shows that he was well versed in the history of computer science and could define exactly what he had achieved, even if the world would take some time to catch up.
4. Satoshi was really scared of the idea that Bitcoin could be compromised
I will clarify this by making it clear that this is an assertion that I am however convinced of. I had known that the Bitcoin blockchain was being exploited in 2010 and that this flaw led to the creation of billions of bitcoins that went against the software’s monetary policy.
I never expected Satoshi to be heavily influenced by this. Far from wiping the incident off as a one-off problem, he appears to have radically realigned his actions and leadership.
He worked less with other developers, was more prone to unannounced additions and updates to the software, and seemed to be entering a month-long period of obsession with making the software more secure.
I read the later part of 2010 when Satoshi woke up to the fact that Bitcoin was vulnerable to attack and the rest of his work as his attempt to stop a deadly exploit at all costs.
5. Satoshi Ran Bitcoin as a benevolent dictator
Today, Bitcoin development is an extremely collaborative process between hundreds of developers around the world. When Satoshi was leading the project, it was him and a few others who did most (if not all) of the work.
This, too, is not exactly surprising. Early on, there weren’t many programmers of Satoshi’s caliber. They would come later and, in large part, be encouraged by Gavin Andresen to join a more open, collaborative project under his direction.
Even so, I still find it interesting that Satoshi executed Bitcoin as a benevolent dictator, as he mostly wrote “official” code that was tested by others. This is in line with established open source practices, and it is believed that Satoshi would not have realized that he needed to invent a new model for Bitcoin management in order for it to be “decentralized”.
Because of this, I think it is best to think of the Bitcoin Satoshi as being only partially built, and its completion, technically and philosophically, was the result of other, later contributors.
6. Bitcoin users became critical of Satoshi before the end
Perhaps my biggest surprise while doing research was to find a lot of real-time conversations between Bitcoin users about Satoshi Nakamoto and seeing firsthand how users’ attitudes towards him have changed over time.
As far as I can tell, these attitudes largely developed in three phases. There was a honeymoon period in early 2010, when most users discovered the software, and an awakening as he began to exercise his authority over the code more actively.
In the last phase in late 2010, users completely parted ways with Satoshi. Some joked about his gender and sexuality, sometimes graphically, and spoke fairly freely and frankly about the frustrations he caused due to a general lack of availability and inability to meet their many demands.
7. Satoshi removed his name from Bitcoin software before leaving
One last interesting finding was that Satoshi officially “terminated” Bitcoin, removed his name from the copyright claim in the software and left the code to all “Bitcoin developers”.
This is in line with our understanding of Satoshi as someone whose careful use and mastery of the safety of personal operations has enabled him to remain a mystery today.
It’s one last crumb of bread that removes any doubt as to whether he wanted to leave, even if the motives behind the move are still a mystery.
To learn more about the life and work of Satoshi Nakamoto, join the Bitcoin Magazine livestream commemorating the anniversary this Wednesday.