If Craig Wright is Satoshi Nakamoto, Satoshi Nakamoto is a small-blocker

If you believe Craig Wright is Satoshi Nakamoto, I’ve written this blog post for you. If you don’t believe he is Satoshi Nakamoto, go and do something more useful with your time.

A very popular explanation why Craig Wright is unlikely to be Satoshi Nakamoto is given in this video by Vitalik Buterin.

The 1-minute explanation posits that if Craig Wright was Satoshi, he would have proven it by making a simple proof (a signature using the private key using bitcoin block #1), instead of making the messy, complicated and ultimately bogus proof he provided to the public.

That’s what I intend to dispute. In this post, I’m not going to argue that Craig Wright is Satoshi Nakamoto. But just for the sake of it, let’s pretend that he is. Now ask yourself this: if you were Satoshi Nakamoto, would you provide the public with a cryptographic proof that you own billions of dollars in the most attractive-to-steal asset on the planet? Unless you were crazy and had no regard for your own life or the lives of the people close to you, you likely wouldn’t. But then ask yourself this; if you really were Satoshi Nakamoto, why would you instead provide the public with a bogus proof that you’re Satoshi Nakamoto?

Let’s think about that for a second.

Now, I mean really imagine you actually were Satoshi.

Put yourself in his hypothetical shoes. I’ll help.

First, let’s start off with a few assumptions about yourself as Satoshi.

Assumption #1: You own around 600,000–700,000 bitcoins.

Assumption #2: You care about keeping that wealth.

Assumption #3: If the Bitcoin project is ruined, you lose that wealth.

Assumption #4: If the Bitcoin project is altered in a destructive way, you’d also lose that wealth.

Assumption #5: It is not easy for you to liquidate your bitcoins without crashing the market (it would likely crash the minute you move your coins on the blockchain).

Assumption #6: Just proving ownership of these coins is likely to significantly impact the market.

Assumption #7: If someone knows you own these coins, you including everyone close to you will be in very grave danger.

Assumption #8: There’s a non-negligible chance that some future privacy improvement to the Bitcoin protocol will allow you to spend those coins without anyone noticing.

These eight assumptions should be pretty non-controversial and are likely to hold true if Satoshi is a normal, rational individual with human tendencies. The best strategy based on these eight assumptions should then naturally be to just sit tight and do nothing unless something extremely serious endangers bitcoin’s survival.

But to really get into the character of Satoshi and why he’d plausibly come back, we’re going to need a quick reminder of the situation Satoshi was in leading up to right before his departure. Consider this series of events:

  • On July 15, 2010, Satoshi Nakamoto adds the 1 MB block size limit to bitcoin. At that point, it was already limited by the number of database locks (effectively around 500–750k bytes) required to process a block. There is evidence that Satoshi was in favor of phasing out the limit bit by bit if needed, but opposed raising it more than necessary and removing it altogether (his response to Jeff Garzik’s suggestion to raise the limit to roughly 7 MB).
  • On December 12, 2010, Satoshi writes his last BitcoinTalk forum post. The second latest post, written the day before, says the following: WikiLeaks has kicked the hornet’s nest, and the swarm is headed towards us.
  • Satoshi remains in contact with a few Bitcoin developers via email after this. The last known correspondence is with Mike Hearn, April 23, 2011, where he said the following: I’ve moved on to other things. It’s in good hands with Gavin and everyone.
  • 4 days later, Gavin Andresen announces that he is about to visit the CIA. Satoshi is never heard from again.
  • In 2015, Gavin Andresen began taking a publicly vocal stance for increasing the block size limit. This blog post from May 4, 2015, was titled “Time to roll out bigger blocks”, but at that point, Gavin had already been in favor of raising the limit for years. On July 22, 2015, he releases BIP101, to increase the block size limit to 8 MB at 2016–01–11 and keep doubling it every 2 years, which he tried to push through via the BitcoinXT client.
  • Gavin’s desired path for increasing the block size limit put him at odds with several other Bitcoin Core developers, who did not see Gavin’s BIP, nor rationale for deploying it, adequate.
  • In February 2016, Gavin was working on an alternative client to Bitcoin Core whose goal was to increase the block size limit to 2 MB. The project was called Bitcoin Classic and had soft support from 72% of the hashrate.
  • In June the same year, Classic removed the limit entirely, leaving the limit up to something for the miners to decide. Gavin stated on Reddit that “Nothing bad would happen if we do it”. As a contrast, Bitcoin Core developer Peter Todd, who had been discussing Bitcoin-like ideas with Hal Finney as far back as 2001, had been calling the idea to remove the block size limit “frankly insane” since 2013.
  • Note that Gavin was still a popular and influential figure in the space at this time. He was the lead developer Satoshi left the project to when he disappeared. Take a look at this /r/bitcoin thread from mid-2015, which paints Gavin in one side of the dispute and a “small group of core devs who are now developing an altcoin under the guise that it is still bitcoin” on the other. The author garnered 5x Reddit Gold, and 367 upvotes for that post. In 2016, the divide between r/bitcoin and r/btc was the biggest clash in bitcoin history. The controversy around Blockstream’s supposed hidden agendas and Theymos’ censorship was not exactly a small thing, but a serious divider. Gavin was r/btc’s champion and a major source of legitimacy for the views and opinions of that side.

Now, let’s look at the details of Craig Wright’s involvement in the Bitcoin community:

I was flown to London to meet Dr. Wright a couple of weeks ago, after an initial email conversation convinced me that there was a very good chance he was the same person I’d communicated with in 2010 and early 2011. After spending time with him I am convinced beyond a reasonable doubt: Craig Wright is Satoshi.
Part of that time was spent on a careful cryptographic verification of messages signed with keys that only Satoshi should possess. But even before I witnessed the keys signed and then verified on a clean computer that could not have been tampered with, I was reasonably certain I was sitting next to the Father of Bitcoin.
During our meeting, I saw the brilliant, opinionated, focused, generous — and privacy-seeking — person that matches the Satoshi I worked with six years ago. And he cleared up a lot of mysteries, including why he disappeared when he did and what he’s been busy with since 2011. But I’m going to respect Dr. Wright’s privacy, and let him decide how much of that story he shares with the world.
  • Many people criticize Gavin for allowing Craig Wright to produce the proof before his eyes on a new computer, suggesting that Gavin must have gotten bamboozled that way, because the computer must have been rigged. But we don’t know exactly how that particular computer was chosen for the demonstration. All we know is that Gavin says it was a “clean computer that could not have been tampered with”.
  • We also know that Craig and Gavin had personal conversations, and from these conversations alone he had Gavin almost convinced. Even after Craig’s public proof was debunked, Gavin is still convinced that the man he met and spoke with is, in fact, Satoshi Nakamoto.
  • The same day the fake proof is published, Gavin Andresen’s commit access to the Bitcoin Core repo is removed.
  • One month later, the Bitcoin Classic movement is just about as good as dead, with Bitcoin Core hashrate support at 98%.

Theory Gavin

Keep in mind that Gavin has been called out for this many times in public, and yet he refuses to budge. Here’s what he Gavin responded to Dan Kaminsky about the fake proof:

Yeah, what the heck?
I was as surprised by the ‘proof’ as anyone, and don’t yet know exactly what is going on.

Gavin says that it’s possible he is wrong that Craig Wright is Satoshi, but he doesn’t think so. Even after all the absolutely crazy absurdities Craig has demonstrated to the public, Gavin just can’t shake his belief that he is Satoshi. The blog post declaring that he is Satoshi beyond a reasonable doubt still remains on Gavin’s personal website to this day.

Then again, if we assume that Craig Wright truly is Satoshi Nakamoto, it is not really that strange that he was able to convince Gavin of his identity to the point where it’s seemingly impossible to get him to think otherwise. But what would be the reason that Satoshi would go down this extremely risky path of exposing himself as the real Satoshi in front of Gavin, while simultaneously giving an easily disprovable proof to the public? And why Gavin in particular? And why in May 2016?

Assumption #4: If the Bitcoin project is altered in a destructive way, you’d also lose that wealth.

If it’s possible that Craig Wright is Satoshi, one explanation for doing what he did according to our assumptions is that Gavin’s support for removing the block size limit altogether posed a more unwanted threat to bitcoin than the risk of coming out as Satoshi posed to himself did.

Assumption #7: If someone knows you own these coins, you including everyone close to you will be in very grave danger.

By proving himself real to Gavin while proving himself a fraud to the rest of the world, he eliminates Gavin as someone whose judgment is to be trusted, while not taking any substantial risk of endangering himself.

The difference between the quality of the proof he showed Gavin and the proof he provided to the public is so great, that Gavin himself can only react with “what the heck?”.

When Craig’s evidence was challenged, he assured us a better proof was on the way. On Monday, when the new evidence was supposed to come, he instead posted this:

I’m Sorry
I believed that I could do this. I believed that I could put the years of anonymity and hiding behind me. But, as the events of this week unfolded and I prepared to publish the proof of access to the earliest keys, I broke. I do not have the courage. I cannot.
When the rumors began, my qualifications and character were attacked. When those allegations were proven false, new allegations have already begun. I know now that I am not strong enough for this.
I know that this weakness will cause great damage to those that have supported me, and particularly to Jon Matonis and Gavin Andresen. I can only hope that their honour and credibility is not irreparably tainted by my actions. They were not deceived, but I know that the world will never believe that now. I can only say I’m sorry.
And goodbye

Do you really think it’s plausible that Satoshi remained in hiding for five years, flew Gavin to London and signed in his presence a message using the key from block #1, only to later discover a few weeks later that he is “too weak” to provide the real evidence? And isn’t it a bit suspicious that he only did this just as Gavin Andresen had begun taking serious action on his ideas to increase the block size limit with the ultimate intention of removing it altogether?

Theory Satoshi’s Vision

After the Gavin incident, we did not hear all that much from Craig, except for him starting his patent trolling company nChain. I am not sure how to fit this move into the theory that Craig is Satoshi, but whatever. Time passed.

Craig only really became aggressive with joining the Bitcoin community once the Bitcoin Cash (BCH) split was underway, which occured on August 1, 2017, a little over a week after a softfork to enable SegWit activation activated on the Bitcoin mainchain. Notably, he appears in the BCH camp 3 days after the ViaBTC Bitcoin Cash futures start trading (at 0.2 BTC each!) on July 23, 2017.

But he wasn’t one of the people championing the BCH fork leading up to it. No — by some magic, his presence was summoned the moment Bitcoin Cash was proven to trade at a significant price where it could be viewed as a threat to bitcoin.

Since then, Craig has been working tirelessly to increase his influence over Bitcoin Cash, showcasing wheelbarrows of academic degrees on stage as well as proclaiming a divine form of understanding of the Bitcoin invention, primarily focusing on graph theory assertions and its economic model. I’ve spoken with a Bitcoin Cash proponent who was a moderator of /r/btc at the time, who’ve described Craig Wright statements often leading to internal conflicts within the BCH community over basic mathematical principles.

The divide within the community finally culminated in the launch of Bitcoin Satoshi's Vision, which seeked to return Bitcoin Cash closer to the original Bitcoin client by rolling back all changes to the protocol back to the state it was nearly a decade ago. Craig even went so far as to wage a hashwar on the original Bitcoin Cash chain, by amassing roughly 60% BCH hashrate and plotting to obliterate the opposing side.

The dispute has now split the Bitcoin Cash coin into “BCHSV” and “BCHABC” on some of the largest exchanges in the world.

So far, Craig Wright’s only strategic moves in the Bitcoin space have proven extremely destructive to the big-blocker community — dethroning their primary champion Gavin, as well as executing a literal divide and conquer attack on the Bitcoin Cash community.

In fact, Craig’s efforts from a Bitcoin Core proponent’s perspective has been so ambitiously supportive of Bitcoin Core that even Gregory Maxwell is willing to lend Craig a hand in destroying Bitcoin Cash.

If you believe that Craig Wright is Satoshi, it appears indisputable to me that at this point, you have to make a choice: either Satoshi Nakamoto is bitcoin’s biggest, most blundering idiot…

Perhaps not the hero small-blockers deserve, but the one they need?

Or — he is a careful small-blocker, extremely concerned with preserving his 600,000–700,000 BTC wealth.