Yesterday, we wrote up a study from Aston University in Birmingham, England that broke down linguistic matches between 13 individuals “regularly referred to as candidates” and Satoshi Nakamoto, the apparently pseudonymous inventor of Bitcoin.
Of the group, they narrowed it down to Nick Szabo, a writer and blogger.
As we discussed in our article, these were not the first independent researchers to conclude Szabo is Satoshi. Yet Szabo has refuted the charge (albeit indirectly), and is not even seeking to avoid attention: Although he has not returned multiple emails and phone calls, he attended a Bitcoin conference at Princeton University in March.
We emailed some of the professors who attended the conference to ask about their interactions with Szabo there. Many said they either did not encounter him, or if they did, only for a moment.
Jeremy Clark is an assistant professor for Information Systems Engineering at Concordia University in Montreal. He said he’d met Szabo for the first time there, and chatted with him during the dinner.
He also sent back the following critique of the Aston study, which we thought was worth posting:
I think the recent evidence linking Nick to Satoshi is grossly insufficient. I buy that out of 13 people, his writing is the most similar. Actually, if you take 13 people, SOMEONE will always be the most close by definition. If you look at the common phrasing they found, you don’t see anything that you wouldn’t see in nearly any crypto paper on digital cash or time-stamping (and there are a ton).
Further, I’ve seen nothing to indicate that Nick can write even one line of code, while Satoshi implemented a very complex peer-to-peer network, to say nothing of the cryptography involved. Nick also still maintains that his bit gold proposal is a better design than Bitcoin so I don’t see why he’d propose one and deploy something different.
I can’t help but wonder if Linux was released under a pseudonym, would anyone guess that it was written by a Finnish masters student? Someone that was otherwise unknown? Of course not. Someone would compare the writing to Richard Stallman, Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, and some super random patent holders, and declare Stallman the winner. Then Newsweek would find him at the end of his driveway, annoyed and in a crumpled t-shirt, chewing on something he pulled off his foot. :)
UPDATE: Jack Grieve, the Aston University lecturer who led the study, has responded in an email (emphasis ours):
… to clarify, the task we took on was to compare the bitcoin paper to the writings of the top 11 candidates, as identified by the media. Nothing more than that, so it seems to me these criticism are irrelevant. We are not claiming that this set of authors is complete, we are not claiming Szabo is the definitely author of the bitcoin paper, and we are certainly not claiming that he necessarily wrote the bitcoin computer code or the various other texts attributed to Nakamoto. We are simply claiming that out of this specific group of 11 authors, that he is the best match for the bitcoin paper. I think most people who take the time to look at the data, especially given the features we have identified, would agree. Also, it is not the case that this process would always results in the identification of an author. For example, had Szabo not been in our dataset, we would not have claimed that any of the other authors match, as none of the other authors even come close.
Also, the general information online about Szabo is that he has a degree in computer science from the University of Washington–although that may be incorrect. It turns out he was never a law professor, for example. Nevertheless, there is computer code included in some of Szabo’s other papers, so the claim that he has never written a line of code is demonstrably false. That said, I think there is some evidence that he did not write the bitcoin computer code, even the small amount of code in the bitcoin paper, but again that simply isn’t what we were investigating.
One last thing that may be of interest to you: http://cypherpunks.venona.com/date/1993/10/msg00759.html
Satoshi: If you’d like to respond, you know where to reach us.