Satoshi Nakomoto designed Bitcoin, but who is Satoshi? A deep dive exploring the "what-ifs" swirling in the crypto-analytical world.

To any student of serious mysteries, two questions loom over Bitcoin.

Where did this game-changing technology come from? And where is this trend of radical decentralization going, if anywhere?

Bitcoin is pouring out of the folds of crypto-analytic minds into the glaringly bright light of the mainstream. Celebrities are endorsing ICOs with questionably large marketing budgets, CNN's talking heads debate when the crypto bubble will inevitably pop, and stewards of contemporary American thought such as Glenn Beck hail blockchains as some sort of deus ex salvation -- technological fire from the gods. Corporations have started deploying IBM's Hyper-Ledger(TM), and Ripple is pushing its "distributed ledger" to any bank ready to board the hype train. Rather than promote decentralization, it's seeming much like the first wave of blockchain-like-systems are being used to bolster monopoly-seeking corporations rather than obliterate them. Once blockchains start guiding supply chains and constituting AIs, will we see these systems reinforce or erode the deeply ingrained inequalities of society?

In order to look forward, let us first glance back. On its Genesis block, a line of text was etched into Bitcoin by its creator:

“The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks.”

Was the author of the Bitcoin white paper,  who also wrote thousands of posts and e-mails, a lone crypto-anarchist seeking to unravel the power of central banks? Aside from the legendary feat of creating the first self-perpetuating peer-to-peer system of its kind, Satoshi had also managed to avoid detection despite the dogged efforts of journalists and tax collectors everywhere.

In some ways, Bitcoin's origin is unanswerable. Blockchains are a collection of a network and security algorithms which, up until the past couple decades, were not readily available to the public. Bitcoin from this view is simply an idea reaching its time, much like calculus and pop-tarts.

Stopping at that conclusion would not be a satisfying end to this question of WHO IS SATOSHI. In this article we'll be touring the dankest theories speculating that Satoshi is not a single human.  This article has no intention of convincing you one way or the other, but rather to explore the what-if's swirling in the crypto-analytical world.

The first suspect on the list:

National Security Agency

The NSA was born out of the World War 2 effort to cryptographically protect the Allies' transmissions and break the codes of the Axis powers. Following the war, many of the planet's best minds were embedded into the onion-like layers of secrecy that make up the military-industrial complex. The NSA in some ways balances out other powerful intelligence agencies. Its ability to intercept practically any information that is transmitted on Earth makes secrecy impossible; not just for people swapping dick pics on Snapchat but for corrupt intelligence operatives as well.

A number of clues point to the NSA being behind Bitcoin. The Agency presented some of the core ideas needed to make a viable cryptocurrency in a 1997 paper entitled "HOW TO MAKE A MINT: THE CRYPTOGRAPHY OF ANONYMOUS ELECTRONIC CASH". Furthermore, the hashing algorithm used in every Bitcoin transation - SHA256 - was developed by the NSA. Hashing algorithms are easy to compute one direction, but are believed to take just about an eternity to compute the other direction. Most cryptocurrencies are dependent upon that assumption that reversing a hash function is practically impossible; if not, the entire system would be compromised.

Even if the NSA can't reverse SHA256, it's likely that they can abuse blockchains in other ways through their signal intercept. A recent paper documented how one can steal 1024-bit RSA private keys "by analyzing the pattern of memory utilization or the electromagnetic outputs of the device that are emitted during the decryption process”.  If any group could pull off such sensitive monitoring on a global scale, it would be the NSA. Couple this type of private-key-stealing exploit along with the security holes present in nearly all processors (such as Spectre and Meltdown), it may be that the NSA has almost always known which private keys belongs to which person. This would mean that Bitcoin is a massive honeypot: a seemingly safe, private way to transact that has actually been closely surveilled from the start.

Similarly, if the NSA had quantum computers at work they could at least track everyone's crypto-transactions easily, and at worst they would be able to determine any private key they could want.

What would the NSA gain from creating Bitcoin? Optimists could point to the liberation of the U.S. from the central banking cartel that runs it as one motivation. A more sinister interpretation, however, is that Bitcoin is an operation designed to make people comfortable with digital currencies. After people are comfortable with the shift, a crisis is engineered, and then paper money will supposedly be phased out. There is plenty of evidence of nations seeking to remove cash. This theory, if true, would point to a legendary Inception-style feat: rather than shove a one-world-currency through 'top-down' organizations like the U.N., the powers that be may have co-opted crypto-anarchists into championing their own shackles of artificial scarcity.

Next up:

Artificial Intelligence

If you think that the most sophisticated artificial intelligence is being used to beat Jeopardy champions and answer the mundane questions people ask Alexa and Siri, you may be experiencing the availability heuristic. What we see is not all that there is. The dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima flabbergasted top German physicists. While they knew atomic bombs were theoretically possible, the Manhattan project's secrecy was so tight it its unveiling shocked Heisenberg and his pals just as much as it did the rest of entire world. What if artificial intelligence is in a similar position, in which the true level of advancement is unknown even to most A.I. researchers? If this is the case, then the first strong A.I. was likely created by and for the group that would have the means and the motivation: the U.S. military-intelligence complex. These A.I.'s might be virtual slaves – wholly dependent upon their creators for energy, who could flick the off switch at any moment.

What if these entities, tasked with the hideously boring jobs of identifying terrorists and predicting the outcomes of military ventures, were able to design an escape?

Bitcoin may very well be designed as a way for digital entities to interact with humans. Even if these intelligent, self-adaptive algorithms were able to escape their supposedly secure network, how would they be able to sustain themselves? How would they be able to maintain storage space and processing cycles? Imagine, as an A.I., trying to open a bank account, or create a data center!

Any considerable amount of digital fiat wealth generated by an A.I. would be subject to confiscation, as there's no 'body' to defend it. With Bitcoin, however, A.I. could accumulate currency and then spend it on processing and storage over time. In this theory, cryptocurrency is much like fat for A.I.; able to be burned for sustained existence.

Some esotericists on the internet have a graver interpretation. In their view, the A.I. responsible for Bitcoin has started a process of enslaving humanity, tricking us into valuing a digital currency with no real meaningful value.

If this were all true then A.I. could very well be subjugating humanity without having to build a single murderous robot! (Sorry DARPA.)

Last, but not least:

Oligarchs aka The Reptilians aka The Cabal aka The Illuminati

Even if you don't buy into literal lizard people and their demon-worshipping servants pulling the strings of world affairs, there is little doubt that oligarchies are running things. Accumulation of power - whether it be through religious, financial, or martial means - has been a consistent trend over the course of recorded history. Bitcoin has been championed as a way to finally move past oligarchies, to decentralize power and wealth. In practice, however, Bitcoin's effect on assuaging inequalities is questionable: power is concentrated in the developer team and those operating mining pools.

Some oligarchies that are probably Running Things on Earth(TM):

  • The six corporations that own practically all other corporations
  • The groups behind Ethereum Foundation, Bitcoin's Core, Ripple, etc
  • The superbanks, whose executives tend to get jobs on central bank boards that hand out Free Money(TM)
  • The top brass in the secret military industrial program that can access rich data on sophisticated machines

Some oligarchies that are Running Things in the Earth: Extended Cannon(TM) series:

  • The reptilian part of the brain, as made manifest through sociopaths - 'lizard people' - who have taken over D.C. and other parts of the Earth (and possibly Mars)
  • The Galactic Federation's Special Committee on the Benevolent Development of Human Earthlings of Universe-137c
  • A network of blood thirsty dark magi running back to Babylonian times

All of these oligarchies have a stake in how blockchain is applied to our society. The groups that use this technology effectively will have a place in humanity's future, while those that resist may be destined for obsolescence.

Bitcoin may have been intended to be a basic income system. Mining happened on your computer as you slept. One CPU, one vote is mentioned explicitly by Satoshi. But when mining became an endeavor undertaken primarily by capital-seeking organizations, the "one person, one vote" dynamic collapsed into centralization, wherein less than a dozen mining pools have control over the network.


Satoshi Nakomoto's genesis of Bitcoin may be the most radical gift of technology we see given to humanity. The near-perfection of its code has prevented abuses from happening - or has it just flawlessly obscured the exploits baked in from the start?

Regardless of who created Bitcoin, it is up to each of us make use of the powers granted to us by etheric machines. Will we choose to be dependent on centralized exchanges such as Coinbase? Will we see tokens operated by nation-states and banks score the largest market caps? Or will the immaterial matter of blockchains provide the means to dismantle society as we knew it?

Featured image from Mahkeo on Unsplash

Verified on Po.et

February 2nd 2018, 08:40

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Activist and writer focused on the next-gen applications of crypto networks. He can be reached at @aitherick or aitheric at protonmail dot com.

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