If you were to perform a welfare check on Satoshi Nakamoto, what would you find Bitcoin’s originator up to? Would he be sunning himself on a lounger, coding an untraceable new currency, or propping up daisies?
Has anyone checked up on Satoshi lately? He’s been awfully quiet. In fact, it’s been almost a decade since Satoshi was last seen online, and a lot has happened since then. Osama, Islamic State, Fukushima, Snowden, mass shootings, truck bombs, the first global pandemic in a century, oh, and Bitcoin. A lot’s happened to Bitcoin since Satoshi last tinkered with its code.
But as for what’s happened to Satoshi himself, no one knows. It’s one of the greatest mysteries of the 21st century, and yet there’s scarcely a scintilla of evidence to go on. Despite the paucity of clues, an educated guess can be made as to what Satoshi Nakamoto is up to now. Based on what’s known about Bitcoin’s enigmatic creator, his conspicuous nine-year absence, and tantalizing traces that hint at his hand in the years since, we can surmise the following: Satoshi is either dead, in the lab, or he never existed to begin with.
Let me explain.
#1: Satoshi Nakamoto Is Dead
The simplest explanation for Satoshi’s enduring absence is also the most absolute: Satoshi is no longer with us in cyberspace because he is no longer with us in meatspace. Whether you believe Satoshi to have been Hal Finney, Timothy May, or any one of a dozen other departed geniuses is immaterial: the point is that with time, the likelihood that Satoshi Nakamoto is dead increases.
A century before the last bitcoin is mined, sometime around 2140, its creator will likely be deceased. There’s a good chance it’s happened already. If so, Satoshi seems to have taken his secret to the grave. Given his love of cyphers, however, there is an outside chance that a dying Satoshi would have left a clue – an easter egg – somewhere for future sleuths to decode when the time is right.
#2: Satoshi Is Still in the Game
We know Satoshi has managed to resist spending the 1 million odd bitcoins he’s believed to have mined in the early days. But do you think he could have resisted monitoring Bitcoin’s progress in the years since? Avoiding the Bitcointalk forum is one thing; avoiding Bitcoin, now that it’s everywhere, would be impossible. Given Satoshi’s sharp intellect, problem-solving mindset, and lone wolf workflow, it’s possible that he didn’t check out of Bitcoin because he’d “moved on to other things”; he may have departed because the community-run nature Bitcoin had assumed didn’t suit his style of working.
He knew Bitcoin had to decentralize – he just didn’t want to be there when it happened.
If Satoshi has been monitoring crypto since going dark almost a decade ago, what’s more likely: that he’s anonymously contributing to an enormous collaborative project like Bitcoin, or that he’s dedicated his time to moonshots – solo pursuits that demand the implantation of a seed for others to germinate? If you think the latter description sounds more like Satoshi’s methodology, you should probably google Nicolas van Saberhagen’s CryptoNote (Monero) whitepaper, or Tom Elvis Jedusor’s MimbleWimble proposal. Pseudonymous devs taking a cue from Satoshi, or Satoshi reassuming his favored modus operandi?
This article does not seek to address Satoshi’s identity; potential candidates are mentioned here to show that if Satoshi is still around, it’s conceivable that he will have continued tinkering with cryptographic systems, and will have done so under a pseudonym to prevent doxxing himself and distracting from his magnum opus.
#3: Satoshi Never Existed to Begin With
This may sound very Inception, but it’s the answer that neatly wraps up why Satoshi hasn’t surfaced in the NBA’s Half Court Shot contest or on Love Island. Satoshi has managed to resist touching his multi-billion dollar stash of bitcoin not because he has iron hands, but because his persona was disassembled by the individuals who created Bitcoin, and cannot be unilaterally reassembled.
The idea that Satoshi was the creation of a consortium, be it a handful of polymaths or a government agency, is well established. It may not be the most compelling theory as to who Satoshi is, but it’s perhaps the most compelling one to explain why he is no more.
Desperately Seeking Satoshi
Given that a decade of global crises, Bitcoin forks, and BTC’s rocketing value haven’t been enough to tempt Satoshi out of retirement, it’s hard to envision an event that would prompt him to respond to the bat signal. The scant evidence available suggests that Satoshi is dead, developing anonymously, or deconstructed.
Whatever explanation you ascribe to, this much is certain: Satoshi is gone and he ain’t coming back. Because he’s the hero the world deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we’ll hunt him. Because he can take it.