Have you heard of Satoshi? No, not the failed libertarian boat … nation … thing – the person it was named after: Satoshi Nakamoto. They’re potentially one of the richest people alive, and it’s all thanks to one world-changing invention. See, Satoshi is the creator of Bitcoin.
Now, you may have noticed we said “potentially” one of the richest people alive, and that’s because whether or not Satoshi makes that particular list depends on quite a few unknowns. For instance, it assumes Satoshi is “one” – they may not be. It also needs Satoshi to be “alive,” and for all we know, the inventor is long dead. We don’t really know anything about Satoshi, in fact – the name is a pseudonym, the person hasn’t been heard from since 2014, and everybody who’s ever been suggested as the inventor’s alter-ego has denied it.
“I’m not [Satoshi],” Musk confirmed in an interview this week on artificial intelligence researcher Lex Fridman's podcast – and he’d tell us if he was, he said. But he does have some ideas on who really is responsible for Bitcoin – and it’s a bit more of an abstract answer than you might expect.
“Obviously I don’t know who created Bitcoin for practical purposes, but … the evolution of ideas is pretty clear before that,” Musk said. “And it seems as though Nick Szabo is probably, more than anyone else, responsible for the evolution of those ideas.”
If you haven’t heard of Nick Szabo, that’s probably by design – he’s notoriously secretive. But among those in the know, he’s long been considered a good bet for the “real” Satoshi: he’s a cryptocurrency and blockchain expert who has been involved in Bitcoin since the very beginning. He’s previously been pinpointed as the inventor based on linguistic similarities between his own writing and Satoshi’s and, perhaps most convincingly of all, he even invented his own cryptocurrency, “bit gold,” a full decade before Bitcoin hit the scene.
Now, Szabo has consistently denied being the true identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, and it’s important to note that Elon Musk was not claiming otherwise. What Musk was saying was something slightly different: Szabo may not be “the” inventor of Bitcoin – he was just undeniably integral to its creation.
“You can look at the evolution of ideas before the launch of bitcoin and see who wrote about those ideas,” Musk said. “He [Szabo] claims not to be Nakamoto, but … that’s neither here nor there. He seems to be the one more responsible for the ideas behind bitcoin than anyone else.”
Basically, Musk said, the person most responsible for Bitcoin may not be Satoshi at all. Satoshi, whoever they are, may have created the cryptocurrency, but it took somebody else – and more than anybody else, Musk believes, that person was Nick Szabo – to conceive of the idea of cryptocurrency in the first place.
But where does that leave the search for Satoshi? According to Musk, it may not matter in the long run.
“What is a name anyway?” he asked Fridman. “A name attached to an idea? What does it even mean, really?”