Here’s where we are in the movie-like saga of Satoshi Nakamoto, a 64-year-old Japanese American living in Temple City, California who reportedly createdthe world’s foremost cryptocurrency.
After two months of investigation, Leah McGrath Goodman reported for Newsweek’s highly-hyped relaunch issue that she had found the man behind Bitcoin, the elusive Satoshi Nakamoto.
For years, people were basically certain it was a pseudonym. Which, as Goodman notes in her story, made it all the more strange when she found him more or less by looking up people who were named Satoshi Nakamoto (he goes by Dorian, but his given name is Satoshi).
Goodman’s story ignited a media frenzy. For hours, reporters camped out of Nakamoto’s home — humble digs for a supposed multi-millionaire — until he emerged to grab sushi with an AP journalist. The throng of reporters tailed Nakamoto’s Prius on his way to lunch, making this the digital currency world’s White Bronco moment.
Then, in the AP’s story, Nakamoto denied he had anything to do with Bitcoin.
But people had been poking holes in Goodman’s story since it ran. Here are the unanswered questions.
Aside from Goodman’s circumstantial evidence, the biggest problem is obviously that her subject is denying the veracity of her story.
“In an exclusive two-hour interview with The Associated Press, Dorian S. Nakamoto, 64, said he had never heard of Bitcoin until his son told him he had been contacted by a reporter three weeks ago,” reported the AP’s Ryan Nakashima.
One of Mr. Nakamoto’s siblings, Tokuo Nakamoto, said his brother was talented in science and mathematics, but that he doubted he was bitcoin’s creator. “I don’t think he is hiding anything. I don’t think he’s that smart,” he said. “He has never been a chief scientist or a chief engineer.”
It stands to reason that the founder of Bitcoin wouldn’t want people to know about it. He’d be worth an absolute fortune. But as Goodman reported, the smoking gun is the short exchange she had with Nakamoto outside his home. From the story:
“I am no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it,” he says, dismissing all further queries with a swat of his left hand. “It’s been turned over to other people. They are in charge of it now. I no longer have any connection.”
“No longer.” Boom, she had her confirmation. In an interview with BI’s Rob Wile, Goodman described how she got that quote:
I let [Nakamoto] know I was coming, I did all I could to be really open. When I did come, I left him a Bitcard [a Bitcoin gift card — ed.] endorsed by Gavin. I came back two hours later, knocked on the door, and he called the cops.
But when they got there they said, “Oh what did you want to say?” I said, “I want to talk to him about Bitcoin,” and it turned out they wanted to hear what he had to say — they were just like “Oh really?” It ended up that I was able to ask a few things … It was his response to me that made it clear — if I weren’t the founder I’d be like, “That’s very amusing, I run a bagel shop.”
As the AP noted, Nakamoto doesn’t speak perfect English. Is it possible the exchange was lost in translation? Could Goodman have extrapolated more from “no longer” than she should have? Or did a shrewd reporter catch the Bitcoin mastermind off guard. Was this a brief moment of truth, and now he’s desperately trying to walk it back by playing the “confused old man” con?
Here’s a video of Nakamoto speaking with the AP. He seems pretty clear, but at one point he mispronounces “Bitcoin” as “bitcom.” Slip of the tongue or a serious Keyser Söze manoeuvre? Hard to say.
The Reddit Bitcoin community also pointed out that the “real” Satoshi’s writing style doesn’t seem to match this man’s at all. Here’s a side-by-side image getting passed around:
There are other unanswered questions.
Last night, a social account known to have been used by the Bitcoin-creating Satoshi reemerged after five years of dormancy (by the user himself) to deny the Newsweek report.
Of course, that could be our 64-year-old Nakamoto too.
Felix Salmon thinks Goodman’s interaction with a police officer in the piece is also a little too perfect:
Then there are the duff notes in the piece. “This is the guy who created Bitcoin? It looks like he’s living a pretty humble life.” That, supposedly, is a verbatim quote from a Temple City cop: it’s possible that a cop uttered those words, but that doesn’t stop them from sounding like very bad expository dialogue…
…But the fact is that if you believe that Dorian is Satoshi, you have to accept that there are still a lot of things which don’t really add up. And conversely, if you believe that Dorian is not Satoshi, then you at the very least have to wonder at the astonishing number of coincidences that Goodman has uncovered.
Plus there’s the fact that the Newsweek story documents Nakamoto’s financial difficulties, which presumabely shouldn’t happen to a Bitcoin gazillionaire.
Again, it’s certainly possible that Goodman’s story is correct. She told our Rob Wile “
I don’t have any doubt in my mind,” when asked if she really believed Nakamoto was indeed the founder.
But there’s clearly still more to this story.