Listen to this story
Episode #34: The Real Slim Satoshi
A book excerpt (“Duality”) purportedly from a memoir by Satoshi Nakamoto appeared online. Aaron & Jay do a close read and guess what the real Satoshi has actually been up all these years.
COIN TALK is produced in partnership with Medium and hosted by Aaron Lammer and Jay Caspian Kang. Press “Listen to the story” above to play the episode. (You can also subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, download the MP3, or email us at email@example.com)
- What Does Crypto Care if Zooko Is a Millionaire? (CoinDesk)
- Did Satoshi write this book excerpt? (Wired)
- Duality: An Excerpt (Nakamoto Family Foundation)
Robot Voice: This episode of Coin Talk was taped Tuesday, July 3rd at 3:00 PM Eastern Standard Time. The Bitcoin price index was $6,572.
Aaron Lammer: Jay, you done with that Chinese food?
Jay Kang: No, but I’m not going to finish it.
Aaron Lammer: You’re going to eat that a second time?
Jay Kang: Look. There’s this Chinese place near the Crypto Cave. It’s generally very reliable for B- takeout Chinese food, which is actually the type of Chinese food I prefer.
Aaron Lammer: Now let me ask you a question. Does anything get less than a B- in all of New York City, if that’s a B-?
Jay Kang: Yeah.
Aaron Lammer: Really?
Jay Kang: Definitely.
Aaron Lammer: So you’ve been to Chinese restaurants worse than the one across from you guys?
Jay Kang: Let me just clear this up here, which is that there are three types of Chinese restaurants in New York City. There’s good Chinese restaurant that are mostly in Flushing and in some parts of Chinatown, I would say.
Aaron Lammer: Authentic.
Jay Kang: Midtown has a few of them.
Aaron Lammer: Sure.
Jay Kang: Not necessarily authentic, but they’re just kind of places where Chinese people go, and they’re good. Then there’s all the takeout places, many of which have bulletproof glass.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah. Anywhere that has wings on the menu.
Jay Kang: Yeah, exactly.
Aaron Lammer: One of those places.
Jay Kang: The most common order is fried wings and fried rice, a combo. Those places I think are all about the same. Then there’s a worse type of Chinese restaurant, which is trying to bridge the gap between those two.
Aaron Lammer: Oh I see, I see. You’re drawing a distinction where you’re like intentionality is important.
Jay Kang: For example, there’s one on 12th and 2nd avenue in Manhattan that I went to that was horrific. I was like, “Well, you’re trying to hard. Just fucking go behind the bulletproof glass and serve the fucking wings. This isn’t working.” Those are all worse than a B-. I would say those are all about a D.
Aaron Lammer: Well, okay, this is a good segue, because the show that we’re going to do today is involved in fakers, fakery, and what happens when you try to create an alternate clone of something?
Jay Kang: That’s quite a stretch of a segue, but I’m going to allow it.
Aaron Lammer: Hey, hey. If it’s not a stretch, it’s not a segue, okay? But before we get into that actually, I wanted to ask you did you see that stuff that came out about Zcash and the executive compensation for Zooko?
Jay Kang: I did. I saw a-
Aaron Lammer: The leader of the Zcash project?
Jay Kang: I saw the kerfuffle on Twitter.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah. I’m always curious about how the faces behind these projects interact with both the technology, the price, and the perception of it being a shit coin or a legit project.
Jay Kang: Before we start, why don’t you tell us who Zooko is.
Aaron Lammer: Zooko is, as I understand it, I believe he is the head. Well, actually, I don’t really know. What’s his official title? Do you know?
Jay Kang: I think he’s the chief engineer and more or less the face of Zcash.
Aaron Lammer: He’s certainly the figurehead of Zcash. This gets into weird stuff where I’ve referred to Riccardo Spagni as the founder of Monero. He’s not the founder of Monero. We don’t have a great word for it. It would be CEO, if this was the business world, but it’s not exactly like a CEO, because you’re not brought on by a board, and you can’t be deposed in that same kind of a manner. It’s not exactly a job.
Jay Kang: Zcash I think was similar in that it was the compilation of several cryptographic projects that academics were mostly doing under different names. They all got kind of composed together, lumped in together to start Zcash, which I think was around the time when Zooko came into the project. It wasn’t like Zcash was named Zcash because his name starts with a Z, I don’t think.
Aaron Lammer: As far as I know, the Z overlap is purely coincidental, although that would be good for a conspiracy minded out there. But there’s a whole foundation for Zcash that has a lot of big name crypto people on it. Matthew Green, the cryptographer that we both really like from Johns Hopkins works on Zcash. It’s not like he is the only person associated with this project, but if you were to pair … I have a little chart in our backend. We have a weird little spreadsheet. I have a field for one person associated with each coin. I think it’s really important who that one person is. In the case of Zcash, it’s absolutely Zooko. He is the face of Zcash.
Now have you thought about what kind of compensation these people who are the face of coins are getting?
Jay Kang: There’s two models, right? Under the first model, one would expect that they get a ton of it, where most of the coins are for them. You look at something like Ripple and the amount that’s help for the people who started ripple or even worked at Ripple early is staggering.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, and that’s a company. We’re talking about the company Ripple, not the currency XRP.
Jay Kang: That’s the company. Yeah, yeah. But even the former head of it, the former CEO, when he was the richest man in the world, that was for 18 minutes or something like that, but good 18 minutes, that’s what I would assume a lot of these shit coin or alt coin things are based on is this idea that the founders get a ton of the money.
Aaron Lammer: Well, when we look at the scandals that we’ve talked about on the show, whether it’s Skycoin, my own beloved Sumokoin, a lot of times when the thing catches on fire, it’s because it turned out that the people behind the project had their hand in the cooking jar and were taking more money than they had claimed out of the pre-mined or pre-set aside coins.
Jay Kang: That’s my baseline assumption is that, right? There are other projects, like Ethereum or Bitcoin where I assume mostly mined coins that where I feel like most likely the founder has some smaller percentage of it, but that they aren’t leveraging the entire project so that they get rich immediately, that they’re proceeding in good faith. That would be the second time. Both types though I would say I would expect the founder to be having to get a lot of money. I’d expect all the founders of any mildly successful coin to be rich.
Aaron Lammer: Well, okay. Two previous examples that I’ve thought about this. Charlie Lee divested himself of all of his Litecoin.
Jay Kang: That’s a very kind way to put it, but yes.
Aaron Lammer: Divested for profit from Litecoin at high-
Jay Kang: To end apartheid.
Aaron Lammer: … at a market high. He took one for the team and sold all of his Litecoin. His reasoning made sense to me, which was every time he did anything, it was affecting the price, and he was getting accused of shilling his own bag, basically. Making decisions to enrich himself. He decided to subvert that by enriching himself. I know that Riccardo Spagni, who runs Monero, I don’t know, I hope I’m pronouncing his name correctly. Has said, “I actually don’t have that much Monero. The amount of Monero I have is overblown. I don’t have any particular … Also, another notice, the Riccardo Spagni went to Consensus with a million dollar wristwatch on.
Whether these guys … Sometimes it’s kind of hard to tell, because it’s like I assume if you are any of these guys that we’ve just talked about, you’re probably also a Bitcoin whale. These are all people who were involved in Bitcoin very early on. It would be hard to decide when you show up with a million dollar wristwatch, it’s like is that a Bitcoin wristwatch or a Monero wristwatch.
Jay Kang: What’s the difference?
Aaron Lammer: Well, the difference is I think in the public perception of what it means to lead one of these projects and what it means if … Okay, in the case of Zooko, it was revealed that he receives about 1% I think of the Zcash.
Jay Kang: 0.9%.
Aaron Lammer: 0.9% of the Zcash. Is that the yearly mining he receives 1% of?
Jay Kang: He receives about $3.6 million a year in Zcash.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, I think about 20% of it is reserved for the foundation and all the people split it. Of that, he has about one 20th, which gives him about 1% overall. Which I’ll say when people were freaking out about this online, I was like, “It doesn’t seem like that much.”
Jay Kang: 1% of all the currency?
Aaron Lammer: 1% seems like a lot. $3.6 million a year to be the public face of Zcash doesn’t seem outrageous.
Jay Kang: Well, I don’t know. Okay, so what we’re sort of dancing around here is the idea of whether or not there is an acceptable level taste wise almost for a founder to be profiting in an early stage for a project that doesn’t really exist and that is supposed to be about decentralized revolution of the economy.
Aaron Lammer: Wait, Zcash exists. People use Zcash-
Jay Kang: No they don’t.
Aaron Lammer: … people mine Zcash. Yeah, but when-
Jay Kang: How many shielded, secure, anonymous Zcash transactions do you think [crosstalk 00:11:14]?
Aaron Lammer: Okay, I don’t think it’s fully mature, but if Edward Snowden is out saying, “Your project is great,” that is at least a marketing success.
Jay Kang: A lot of people said nice things about Theranos too.
Aaron Lammer: It takes a public figure, I guess I’m saying, to go around to crypto conferences all year. I don’t expect that he was doing that shit for free. Now does he deserve $3.6 million? I think that’s an interesting debate to have, but within a factor of, let’s say, 1 to 100, you could have told me that he was making $300,000 a year, $3 million a year $30 million a year, $300 million a year. Some of these people who are doing ICOs are pulling in more than $3 million on their first day at work.
Jay Kang: I agree with you that the entire range is there, and that in fact I would have put the floor, the bottom most least possible at $3.5 million a year.
Aaron Lammer: Oh really?
Jay Kang: Yeah.
Aaron Lammer: If you had found out he was doing it for $300,000 a year, you would have been like, “What a moron.”
Jay Kang: I would have been like, “Why are you doing this? What’s the point?”
Aaron Lammer: It’s also like if you’re Zooko, I know he’s got kids. We’ve both got kids. If you’re actually only making only a couple hundred thousand dollars a year on Zcash, Zooko could go out and do a Zcash fork right now and be like, “It’s like Zooko Coin,” and easily make many millions of dollars. People would buy that in a second.
Jay Kang: Or he could go to-
Aaron Lammer: People bought Zcash, Zclassic.
Jay Kang: Yeah. He could walk up to Goldman Sachs and be like, “Hey, I only make $300,000 a year. Can you use me on whatever crypto stuff that you’re doing?” They would 10 times his salary immediately. $3.5 million a year is a lot. It is about what you would make as a maybe below average backup point guard in the NBA. It’s really not that much.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, he’s not even making Nick Young money.
Jay Kang: No, definitely not.
Aaron Lammer: That’s kind of my bar.
Jay Kang: He’s making a little bit less than DeMarcus Cousins just signed for the Golden State Warriors. For crypto, when you have people who are starting projects that literally don’t exist where you can’t send a transaction in the way that you can with Zcash, and those people are making nine figures, this seems kind of small. If you were going to name the top 10 people in crypto who are the most important and the most reported on and the most well-known, he’d be in the top 10.
Aaron Lammer: Oh yeah.
Jay Kang: It’s not like some small shitcoin or something like that. If Riccardo Spagni is walking around with a million dollar watch, one would assume that he makes more than $3.5 million a year, or he’s horrible with money. Charlie Lee cashed out for nine figures, right?
Aaron Lammer: Yeah.
Jay Kang: Out of Litecoin.
Aaron Lammer: But there is a distinction between people who are massive hodeling whales and people who are receiving compensation for their [inaudible 00:14:11].
Jay Kang: Okay, but I don’t understand why people are so mad about this. It doesn’t seem like that much money. I’m sure at some point, Aaron, maybe, oh, let’s say seven months ago you and I might have conceptualized that maybe we would make $3.5 million in crypto.
Aaron Lammer: We still might.
Jay Kang: The odds are very, very low, but we might.
Aaron Lammer: This is per year. This is also per year.
Jay Kang: Sure.
Aaron Lammer: Over the arc of Zcash, let’s say he’s going to walk away with 10 to $20 million in compensation? I agree with you. I think it is appropriate, and I think the incentives are properly aligned, which is to day he didn’t set a salary of $3.5 million for himself. He set a salary of a percentage of the mine of Zcash, and it’s because Zcash has been able to establish legitimacy and establish value that that’s worth $3.5 million. That is no small part due to his efforts.
Jay Kang: It’s better than having him own 30% of the coins and then dump it on everybody when it pumps. This actually does seem like an incentive structure in the way that it is paid out month by month, where it actually prevents him from trying to artificially pump it up and dump it. Make sure that he is somewhat invested over some long period of time now. That might not be the same as if you and I started a tech startup and we didn’t have a product and we were getting VC funding, etc, etc. But in reality, if you and I were doing that, we might be … It was a project as successful with as much hype as Zcash, we’d probably be making $3.5 million a year. Of all the offensive things in crypto, I don’t understand why this is even scratching the surface of offensive.
Aaron Lammer: I think that we’re moderates, Jay. Did you know that? We’re like crypto moderates.
Jay Kang: Did somebody tell you that?
Aaron Lammer: Well, I realized that after I interviewed Saifedean.
Jay Kang: Oh okay.
Aaron Lammer: I realized that my viewpoints on all this stuff are like, “Whoa, moderation. Please exhibit moderation.” I think what makes people uncomfortable is that people are very ideologically enthralled with decentralization. People want to believe that all these alt coin projects are decentralized, just like Bitcoin is, but actually to run a big project like this, if it’s not Bitcoin, which kind of amazingly and elegantly does run without a Zooko-like figure-
Jay Kang: Arguably.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, arguably. I guess what I think makes people uncomfortable about this-
Jay Kang: And there’s still Bitcoin Core and stuff like that.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. But I think what makes people uncomfortable here is that it makes you realize that maybe Zcash and Ripple aren’t such distant cousins.
Jay Kang: I would argue that that’s true.
Aaron Lammer: That actually Zcash is maybe a little more like a startup and a little less like Bitcoin.
Jay Kang: Yeah, I agree. Crypto moderates though.
Aaron Lammer: Are we? I don’t know. This is something I want to talk about with you.
Jay Kang: Okay. Are we like the people in the New York Times and Washington Post Oped who are calling out for civility?
Aaron Lammer: Decency. We need a return to decency.
Jay Kang: If Zooko gets kicked out of a restaurant because the chef is mad, are we going to be like, “You cannot have this happen in a civilized society?”
Aaron Lammer: Yes, yes. That might be our role.
Jay Kang: Okay. You know what? That might be our role. That sucks.
Aaron Lammer: I look at whether you’re an extremist or a moderate depends on the environment. I don’t think I’m a moderate in most environments, but in crypto, I’m constantly like, “Everyone calm down. We don’t need to entirely destroy the world here. We don’t have to.”
Jay Kang: It is a good indication that you and I, who in our other worlds are … You know some as being unhinged trolls, at least one of us. I’m talking about me, and squarely a moderate in the crypto world, which I think is actually an accurate portrayal.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah. When I was talking to Saifedean Ammous, we were talking to Saifedean, who is decidedly not a moderate, he hates alt coins for the most part. He thinks they’re all shit coins. I wanted to push him on, okay, some of them are obviously shit coins, but why is a Zcash a shit coin, or one of these top 20 coins? His explanation is that for the most part, he has lots of criticisms. One of his central criticisms is that they’re run by these cults of personality, and that if that cult of personality, whether it’s a Zooko or a Vitalik either disappears or is in some ways loses their status, that the coins, all the value proposition of the coin is locked up in this single point of failure.
Jay Kang: Or if the person gets in an airplane crash or something like that.
Aaron Lammer: There was a fake Vitalik car crash, and it’s like, “What happens to Ethereum if Vitalik dies in a car crash, or repudiates decentralization and says it was a mistake?” There’s a million ways that unforeseen events could happen, but I think what’s the most interesting to me about Bitcoin is that it does not have that .
Jay Kang: Well, it does, but it is protected by several layers of mystery and anonymity.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, it’s kind of like the Jesus myth. It’s like Jesus was here. He’s probably coming back, but you can’t talk to him right now.
Jay Kang: Yeah, so you might as well believe in what we’re telling you, because he’s coming some day.
Aaron Lammer: Yes, and I think it’s one of the reasons that Bitcoin has been so powerful and so hard to dethrone. It’s really like a great foundational myth. Every time where you would reach a fork in the road and the so-called leader would have to make a centralized decision about where we’re going, the community just has to figure it out themselves, because you can’t ask Satoshi.
Jay Kang: Yeah, yeah. Are you aware of anything about the history of the Mormon church?
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, I’ve read the John Krakauer book about Mormons.
Jay Kang: Okay, so I did not read that book. I am instead going off of my 11th grade American History class. But Joseph Smith was taking people west to the promised land.
Aaron Lammer: Another way to describe it was he is taking people west, because they kept getting kicked out of towns, because they were scammers, but they were moving in a westward direction.
Jay Kang: Okay, that’s all I’m saying. All right. Let’s not be pedants here. He said that he had tablets, right?
Aaron Lammer: Yes. Twice.
Jay Kang: On those tablets, they’re behind a secret wall, and nobody could see them.
Aaron Lammer: Well, he had a translator. He had to look in his hat to see what’s in there.
Jay Kang: But the tablets didn’t exist, most likely.
Aaron Lammer: Well, first his wife destroyed the first transcription of them, and then they did it again.
Jay Kang: Okay.
Aaron Lammer: But yeah, no one saw them.
Jay Kang: Nobody could see them, and when people would say, “Can we see them?” He would say, “No.” At some point, I believe, again, according to 11th grade history class, somebody snuck in and they said there’s no tablets here, and he said that God had warned him that somebody was going to sneak in, so he had moved them or something like that, right?
Aaron Lammer: Yes. I would describe Joseph Smith’s entire life is a sequence of events like this where it’s like, “No, I wasn’t scamming, I was …” Ball of smoke, moves to a town one town over.
Jay Kang: Yeah, it’s like Waiting for Guffman where they think they’re in California, but they haven’t really reached it there.
Aaron Lammer: Basically yes, yeah.
Jay Kang: That’s how I see the Satoshi thing, right? Where there’s no way to confirm anything. There’s no way to know what’s real, and so you can have blind faith in it as long as nobody knows what it is, and that if the truth comes out, no matter how spectacular, it will most likely be disappointing, and that’ll most likely hurt the Bitcoin economy.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah. How would Christianity deal with Jesus actually coming back?
Jay Kang: Well, we’d all be dead, because it’s the rapture.
Aaron Lammer: Or how would Mormonism deal with the actual appearance of those tablets?
Jay Kang: I think in that one, also everybody is dead.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah. I guess I’m saying-
Jay Kang: It’s all very like Heaven’s Gate where the end is everybody is dead.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, exactly. It’s like the entire run of Mormonism or Christianity on earth is up until the point that the person reappears. In my opinion, nothing could be worse for Bitcoin than the reappearance of Satoshi.
Jay Kang: It’d be so bad.
Aaron Lammer: I would be like I could not sell fast enough if a guy was on CNBC. It’s like, “We found Satoshi.” I’d be like, “No!”
Jay Kang: You would not be fast enough. I feel like there’s trigger releases on that just for that. The value of Bitcoin would probably fall to, what, 60, 70%?
Aaron Lammer: It’s totally unpredictable. I think there’s some people who would say it’ll go up now that we can put a name-
Jay Kang: No, I think those people are wrong.
Aaron Lammer: I can think of several factors that inform my feeling that it would go down. When I think about the BCH fork and the whole period of Bitcoin forks, that whole time that Satoshi was like a real person that we could talk to, people would have been saying, “So, should we 2X or not 2X? It was your idea.” Every petty squabble within the community would ultimately fall to Satoshi. Every time there was a scare about people buying drugs with … There would be movements to throw Satoshi in jail, to confiscate his pre-mined funds. He would have to deal with the tax situation of, “We know that you pre-mined a million coins. Your tax bill is more than the GDP of …” These are really big issues that would come up if Satoshi reappeared, no?
Jay Kang: Yeah, yeah. Also, I think that most people would probably be really not thrilled with figuring out who he was. The whole mystery part of it goes away. Once the elegance of Bitcoin, everything that we think was made by a super genius goes away the second that you see some dude on TV, and he’s talking to some TV anchor or something like that, and you’re like, “Oh, this person might not be that smart.” It might be unfair or something like that, but people will lose their faith almost immediately. Right now, he is seen as this mythic genius figure. There’s no way that you can hold that up the second that you go public.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, I think that immediately, there’s so many ways to interpret Satoshi that in his absence, we can maintain all of those interpretations. You and I can be Bitcoin moderates. People can be like Mad Max, Scorched Earth, Bitcoin gold standard fans, and I don’t know if we can all coexist peacefully, but at least each person can think that they have the right ideas. Yeah, it’s a little bit like if Jesus came back, we’d be like, “So which one was right? Protestantism, or the … Tell which one of the sects had it right here.”
Jay Kang: Calvinism.
Aaron Lammer: Probably within a day, people would re-murder Jesus.
Jay Kang: Yeah.
Aaron Lammer: I think Satoshi would be destroyed by reappearing. One of the reasons I think that Satoshi is really smart is because he hasn’t reappeared. It’s the absolutely right decision.
Jay Kang: I’m going to hold you to what you said before. What is the scenario where Bitcoin goes up if Satoshi is revealed?
Aaron Lammer: That’s a good question.
Jay Kang: What if it’s Elon Musk?
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. I think if it was Elon Musk, Bitcoin goes up, people are like, “Whoa, Elon Musk? Buy Bitcoin.”
Jay Kang: Maybe a year ago.
Aaron Lammer: I actually can see Wall Street, I remember our interview with a surprisingly reasonable Ripple fan. He’s a banker right? He’s a finance guy. He was like, “I was always uncomfortable with the fact that Satoshi was anonymous.” People don’t really know who’s behind this project. I think that actually Wall Street could potentially react positively towards the reappearance of Satoshi, if Satoshi … You don’t think so?
Jay Kang: I done believe that you even think that.
Aaron Lammer: Well, we’re assuming that Satoshi has got purple hair and just a cypherpunk.
Jay Kang: No, no, no.
Aaron Lammer: No?
Jay Kang: I’m picturing him as an overweight, slovenly dude.
Aaron Lammer: Oh, okay. I as picturing him more as like Shingy.
Jay Kang: There’s no one in the Bitcoin space who is like Shingy at all.
Aaron Lammer: That’s what I’m saying. He’s not someone we know about. You think he’s basically a Nick Szabo, Hal Finney type, like a nerdy dad probably?
Jay Kang: Yeah, he’s definitely a nerdy dad.
Aaron Lammer: Okay. I agree, but you don’t think Wall Street would like a nerdy dad?
Jay Kang: No.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, probably not.
Jay Kang: No, I think they would prefer Shingy.
Aaron Lammer: I think finding Satoshi has always been the most interesting Bitcoin mystery for journalists.
Jay Kang: Yeah, for me it’s what got me into Bitcoin.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, I think it draws a lot of people in. There’s a lot of depth to the mystery. Bitcoin’s elegance as a system is really fascinating to me. Then you can’t say this is an elegant, fascinating system, and not be interested in who made that.
Jay Kang: Yeah, so as a journalist, I’ll just say that there are very few mysteries that are this big that are unsolved that have been this unsolved … Actually, it is probably the only one, outside of the zodiac fucking killer.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, pre Bitcoin, but … Okay, there’s a lot of, “Who killed this person?” But outside of violence, are there other great artists, great creators who’ve remained anonymous? Who’s the most famous anonymous person?
Jay Kang: Well, this is a distinguishing factor why this Satoshi thing is so interesting, which is that there are other anonymous things. Who made the Rosetta Stone or something like that?
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, who made Stonehenge?
Jay Kang: Who made Stonehenge? Or where did those Klay Thompson heads show up on Easter Island? Who made that?
Aaron Lammer: There’s a lot of mysteries around Klay Thompson.
Jay Kang: Who made Klay Thompson?
Aaron Lammer: Who sent those toasters back in time and got him to sign them?
Jay Kang: Point being, every single other mystery has almost no data. The thing about the Satoshi mystery is that there are these emails. There’s a ton of people who interacted with this person. All of that is public. Anybody can find almost all the message board stuff. There is a sense that there is enough data that you should be able to figure this out, but nobody has been able to. That’s why for journalists, I think it’s so interesting, because you feel like you’re almost there, but you’re not. You can’t figure out why, and so you can go, like our good friend and former guest, Adrian Chen, who has been thinking about this for many years and who’s one of, I would say in terms of figuring shit out, weird shit out on the internet, probably the best journalist out there. That’s why these types of things drive people crazy or journalists crazy, because we can’t figure out why we can’t figure it out.
Aaron Lammer: I think that this happening in the modern era makes it even that much more exciting. It makes sense that it’s hard to figure out how painted a masterpiece in the Renaissance. There’s been so much decay, and also things weren’t recorded in the same way. Everything that Satoshi did, the whitepaper, the actual code for Bitcoin, the message board posts, that’s all perfectly preserved. It hasn’t decayed at all. The only way, really all we have to go on is this text, these little lines of text. The main way, and I think Adrian talked about this when he was on the show, it seems like the best lead for Satoshi is to match his writing style.
Jay Kang: Many people have tried to do that. The best case for Nick Szabo always was that it was similar writing styles, but then there would be times where Satoshi would use Briticisms, and people didn’t quite understand that. Should we just get to the thing that we’re talking about?
Aaron Lammer: Sure. Yeah.
Jay Kang: Okay. A few days ago on the internet, there was a news site that was anonymously registered through Amazon Web Services. It’s called the Nakamoto Family Foundation. There’s one post on it which was explaining that this person who is purporting to be Satoshi was now going to be writing a book, and that they wanted to alert people that there was an excerpt of that book that was going to be available. You can just click on it. It’s a PDF. Anybody can read it right now. Bloomberg ran a story about this, and I think the title was something that was like, “Has the mysterious creator of Bitcoin written a book?”
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, if you came to it through the Bloomberg story, it seemed maybe legit. It wasn’t like some crank is pretending to be Satoshi. It was like, “We may have found out who Satoshi is.” That was the tone of the article.
Jay Kang: I think that’s saying it a little bit too strongly, but I think that both the fact that it was Bloomberg, which I think is a reputable organization, and the fact that it didn’t say, “This probably isn’t Satoshi,” that’s about as far as they get, but that’s pretty far.
Aaron Lammer: Yes.
Jay Kang: What we have instead are about 21 pages in PDF of a first-person narrative mostly of the early days of Bitcoin, purportedly written by Satoshi. I’ve mostly muted or unfollowed most of crypto Twitter to keep my own sanity recently. What has the reaction been like in crypto Twitter?
Aaron Lammer: I was surprised, because the last time that someone did this, it was Craig Wright, right? I think the best account of the Craig Wright saga is John Lanchester’s reporting and the London Review of Books. Highly recommend that if you missed that hilarious incident. But basically to recap, he spun, spun, spun, waited, waited until the last second, and then couldn’t really show the private keys that would have identified him as Satoshi. The standard for proof was established at that point as showing the private keys for the wallets of the original Bitcoin pre-mines.
Jay Kang: Yeah, so for those who may have forgotten, it’s two actually very good journalists, Andy Greenberg and Sam Biddle, both wrote stories at a time saying this might be Satoshi. It’s an Australian guy, Craig Wright, who if you’re involved in crypto at all, you know who he is. They published, and eventually it turned out that there was one type of signature that Craig Wright could have provided that would have easily proven he was Satoshi, but he could not provide that.
Aaron Lammer: He has a whole raft of explanations for it that you can look up online if you’re interested. I feel pretty comfortable in saying that Craig Wright is not Satoshi and is also not behaving like someone who’s Satoshi.
Jay Kang: What’s his behavior like?
Aaron Lammer: He’s like a brash, showoffy, asshole-ish. He is not acting like a person who pulled himself off-grid and hid for a long time.
Jay Kang: Yeah. He’s another person who has blocked me on Twitter, by the way.
Aaron Lammer: How do these people … Are you on some sort of a universal block list? How does Craig Wright know enough about you to block? I’m sort of flattered for the show.
Jay Kang: Yeah, me too.
Aaron Lammer: Like Craig Wright blocked you. But it also is probably based on something completely different.
Jay Kang: I don’t really remember why … I’m blocked by a lot of people, and for most of them, I don’t remember why. Tim Kawakami, do you know who that is? He’s a Bay Area sports reporter.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah.
Jay Kang: He blocked me on the second day that I was on Twitter in 2009 or something like that, and he’s never unblocked me.
Aaron Lammer: Well, you have a lot of … I’m sure people had grudges against you from before the Twitter era they just brought into the electronics.
Jay Kang: I wasn’t even in media before the Twitter era though.
Aaron Lammer: Look, I don’t know what you were like before Twitter, but I could see people just being like, “Okay, who would I want to block, first block ever? Okay, Jay Kang. Jay Kang.”
Jay Kang: Craig Wright, if you had to put a percentage on the chances that Craig Wright is Satoshi, what would you put it at?
Aaron Lammer: I would say, since we’re in the World Cup here, I would have given Craig Wright Saudi Arabia chances.
Jay Kang: To win the whole thing?
Aaron Lammer: To win the whole thing, and Nick Szabo, he’s not Brazil, but he’s like-
Jay Kang: Belgium?
Aaron Lammer: Columbia, Belgium.I think he’s like a 10 to 1, 15 to 1 chance.
Jay Kang: Yeah, about Belgium. Let’s talk about this actual text though, the 21 pages. You and I have both read it.
Aaron Lammer: This is just a general impression from glancing across it. A lot of people are making fun of it, as you would expect. A lot of people are like, “This is ridiculous.” It’s not hard to pick apart, and I’m sure we are about to pick it apart. It’s kind of a fascinating document, even as fiction.
Jay Kang: We should say I think here is that any time that anyone says they’re Satoshi, the general reaction since Leah McGrath Goodman and Newsweek said that Dorian Nakamoto was Satoshi. It’s all been derision. Nobody believes in it. It’s not particularly hard or surprising that this was immediately dismissed.
Aaron Lammer: Yes, but this is coming from a different angle, which is there’s been a lot of people who’ve tried to unmask Satoshi. I file this with the Craig Wright, because it’s someone trying to call their own shot as Satoshi.
Jay Kang: All right. We’ve both read it. I’m going to give my case for why I think it is Satoshi.
Aaron Lammer: Wow.
Jay Kang: Yeah, and let me caveat this by-
Aaron Lammer: Now you may want to turn down the volume on your phone, because this take is going to come in a little hot.
Jay Kang: I don’t necessarily believe this, but while reading it, some thoughts did pop to my head, right?
Aaron Lammer: Okay.
Jay Kang: Okay. The first is that the writing style that this is in is very loose. It resembles nothing of the white paper. It is essentially like a series of diary entries written by, I would say, a somewhat stoned, maybe, college student.
Aaron Lammer: It reminds me a little bit more of when someone’s dad sends a really long email, and it’s the formatting is a little all over the place.
Jay Kang: The formatting is weird, yeah.
Aaron Lammer: It’s kind of like, “Oh, and another thing. Oh, and also your mom said blah blah blah. Oh, and also,” it does not appear to have been edited.
Jay Kang: Very stream of consciousness.
Aaron Lammer: It’s referred to as an excerpt. Now both of us have crossed paths with the publishing industry. I used to work in publishing. This is not actually an excerpt. That is not correctly identifying what this is. An excerpt is when you take an entire book and publish a chapter of it or some subset of it. This is more of a scattered pitch for the book.
Jay Kang: It’s like a sampling.
Aaron Lammer: Closer to an outline.
Jay Kang: It’s not a contiguous excerpt, but it’s different parts of it.
Aaron Lammer: It’s not linear at all.
Jay Kang: I find it hard to believe that if this is somebody who is trying to mimic the style of writing of Satoshi Nakamoto in both the many emails he sent, in the whitepaper itself, in all the correspondences on forums, that they would write it in this style, because any normal person who is trying to mimic a style will look at the source text and be like, “Hey, I should make it kind of look like that,” right? Whatever things that are used in that real source text, I’m going to put in this, because people will match A to A, and they’ll say, “Hey, this is a real thing.”
This has so little resemblance to anything that Satoshi has ever written. In fact, it is so bizarrely stream of consciousness that I find it almost impossible to believe that the person who wrote this was actually referring to the source material at all. That leaves me to two conclusions. The first is that this is one of the many, many people who are a little bit off who have emailed every journalist who has ever been involved in trying to find Satoshi, and to say they’re Satoshi. I used to get these calls as well, because I wrote about Satoshi a little bit. Adrian gets one a month I think.
This person has basically just registered a website and then taken some of the facts and written all of this out. Or I would say that it’s actually Satoshi, because the only person who would not really care if he sounded like the old Satoshi is the person who says, “Actually, I don’t need to worry about that, because I actually am Satoshi.”
Aaron Lammer: Okay, I don’t want to agree with you, but there are certain parts of your logic I do agree with. Here’s one of them, which is I grew up in Berkeley, California. Many of my friends’ parents were famous academics, well-known thinkers, people who published books. There’s something that happens to people when they get on email or they’re supposed to be writing a long document that they don’t really understand the accepted formatting of. When people get loose, they can get really loose. I know people whose parents have been Nobel Prize contenders, and I’ve seen emails from them that you would be like, “That’s not the same guy.”
Jay Kang: That person is illiterate.
Aaron Lammer: This has a little bit of that flow. You know when people will be like, “Oh, that’s a great idea. You should write a book about that,” and you’re like, “Come on, that’s not a good idea for a book.” This is written like someone who doesn’t know how to write down the idea for a book. It’s just a bunch of reminiscences and grievances scattered. It keeps trying to sort of react. It’s like, “I know you’re thinking that Satoshi is a real name, but it’s not.” No one thinks it’s a real name. It has a weird tone that I would almost describe as you know in a movie trailer when it’s like, “That’s me. I bet you’re wondering how did I get into this jam?”
Jay Kang: It’s record scratch. Yeah, Ferris Bueller.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, it’s like, “Oops, I created Bitcoin: The Book.”
Jay Kang: That’s my general argument for it, which is essentially like if this was written like the whitepaper, I would say that it’s most likely fake, because who really writes that way? Nobody writes in that dense sort of way when they’re like, “Oh yeah, and then I met Hal Finney. Hal emailed me, and we had a,”-
Aaron Lammer: “He’s a great guy.”
Jay Kang: “I really liked him.”
Aaron Lammer: Hal. It’s like clearly no one’s edited this.
Jay Kang: Yeah, but it seems like everything is kind of … It feels like somebody just wrote this down loosely, and that … Look, if some of the details are very specific, but the thing is, and ultimately I think what will send this all crashing down to earth is that all the details that are in there that seem like they might be revelatory, are things that can be easily cross-referenced and taken back.
In terms of the differences in writing style, which I think we’ll get into, there is an explanation in this book for that, which is that whoever this author is says that when he was trying to disguise himself as Satoshi, he would purposefully do things like add in Briticisms and stuff like that to throw people off the scent. He’d write in different styles. My question would be, and I think this goes to something that you’re talking about with the people that you know who are generally illiterate over email but are great writers when it comes to the specific academic format, is it possible that Satoshi now, 10 years later, trying to reminisce all of this and dropping all the pretensions is just writing in his natural style, and that all the other things were written in a way to try and disguise his identity?
Aaron Lammer: I don’t think that’s possible, but I think it’s a funny scenario. In that timeline, I guess Satoshi is in the Barbados, drunk on the beach writing this.
Jay Kang: Yeah, exactly.
Aaron Lammer: Has been living off of the massive proceeds, not of the pre-mined walled where nothing is ever moved, but some other secret wallet that has, say, 10,000 Bitcoin in it. Okay, there’s a few things that you have to at least make the case for me why this is true.
Jay Kang: Okay.
Aaron Lammer: I used to be a ghost writer. I worked in publishing, and then I was hired by the publishing company to write several business books. I think I’m a pretty good identifier of style. These are so clearly written in a different style that I’m not clear how this person could have written the whitepaper, unless they had help. There’s a weird level. I don’t know if you noticed this across the course of the document, but any time that there’s something where something new could actually be revealed, he’s like, “This will be in the book.” Anytime that there’s-
Jay Kang: Yeah, but that’s called a tease.
Aaron Lammer: It’s a tease, but it’s like if you were really teasing the book, wouldn’t you want to throw people one bone that’s something that people genuinely did not know that is verifiable? Also, he seems to be writing this as if he’s responding to someone noticing all the flaws in it. He’s like, at one point he says, “I must admit though that I notice my style of writing has changed slightly in the years since. I don’t double space like before.”
Jay Kang: It’s like have you seen that document, it was based off a David Grann story about that 30-year-old man in Spain who pretended to be a kidnapped 10-year-old?
Aaron Lammer: Oh yeah, totally. The imposter.
Jay Kang: Imposter, yeah.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, it has a little of that. It has a little bit of, “I know you’ll have problems with this story, but bear with me while I give you a concocted reason why all of them are irrelevant.
Jay Kang: Does that mean I’m right now the family that took in the 30-year-old and continued to believe that it was their long-lost child?
Aaron Lammer: Yes. I think that is you. I’ll say to your credit, I do think when people are responding to criticism and a whole period where they’ve gone silent, they can come back kind of, “Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.”
Jay Kang: Yeah. Guess what rich people do when they are rich and not doing anything? They look at the internet for people who are criticizing them and then they build up long lists of grievances against those people that are criticizing them. You wouldn’t think that’s true, but that is almost universally true.
Aaron Lammer: There’s a part where he talks about, he’s like, “I didn’t get all of my ideas into Bitcoin, like smart contracts. I wanted to include that.” It was like him preemptively being like, “Vitalik ripped me off.”
Jay Kang: That also seems real to me. Okay, so for example, sports example, if you, in 1998 say, you were to read a transcript of Michael Jordan’s Hall of Fame speech in which basically it is a long list of Michael Jordan responding to people who criticized him and who he thought were his enemies. At the time in 1998 and throughout his entire career, Michael Jordan didn’t have any real enemies. This is a person who is constructing enemies and saying, “I vanquish all of you.” Would you have believed that that was really Michael Jordan? No way. You’d be like, “The Michael Jordan I know is a corporate guy. He’s very careful about what he says. He’s very likable. He’s the guy from Space Jam.” You would not think this is an unhinged person who basically is only motivated by spite.
That also makes me think it might be real. The idea that Satoshi, after 10 years and having created Bitcoin would now be like the exact same person and write in weird gnostic, almost impenetrable finance and crypto talk, it just doesn’t make sense to me. I actually think if Satoshi were to write a book, which I don’t think he is, I think it would maybe sound something like this.
Aaron Lammer: I’m going to follow you here and say what if this is real? If this is real-
Jay Kang: I’m glad this is working.
Aaron Lammer: … why, if you’re Satoshi, do you go dark for the better part of a decade and then reappear in this manner? What would possibly motivate you?
Jay Kang: Well, I can’t answer that question. He does answer why he went dark, which is that he was really worried about Bitcoin being destroyed, but also him personally being destroyed because he was correctly identifying it as a potential threat. I think that he is right, and you said this on the show before. It’s something that we talked to Saifedean about as well, which is that Saifedean always thought that Bitcoin wasn’t going to work, because he thought that they would just throw everyone in jail. Then once Silk Road happened and they didn’t throw everyone in jail, they just through DPR in jail, that he was like, “Oh, maybe this thing has legs.”
That’s his reason for going dark. Now as to why you would reveal yourself in a self-published book in which you’re teasing on a website and basically doing the most weird scammy, teasery, Kickstartery way, I have no idea. I can’t answer that question. Is he charging for the book?
Aaron Lammer: I don’t think the book exists. I think this is everything that exists of the book. This excerpt is not the product of someone who wrote a whole book and then wanted to put part of it online. This is like-
Jay Kang: That’s true. That is true.
Aaron Lammer: … someone who wrote a long single-spaced Word document the day before something was due and sent it in as an unformatted email. It has sentences that don’t make sense at a sentence level.
Jay Kang: I’m not as concerned about the lack of editing. I’m more concerned about this idea that half of this post seems to be trying to explain why his writing style is so bad. But hey, who knows?
Aaron Lammer: Here’s my biggest reason why I think this is not Satoshi. There’s 1,000 reasons, but this one is central, which is Satoshi developed an elegant, innovative system of trustless commerce where two people can both agree on something with voracity without a trusted intermediary third party. If he, Satoshi, was really coming back online now, I think that he would recognize that the audience would need a verifiable trustless piece of third-party proof to accept it. I think that the first thing he would do would be like-
Jay Kang: That’s the biggest problem that you have with it?
Aaron Lammer: Well, I think that the very first thing he would think was, “How do I think about this like a computer scientist, like a person who created Bitcoin? Why would I lead with 20,000 words of like, ‘I remember my old friend Hal Finney,’ when I could just post the keys at the front of it and prove it was me, and then explain the whole thing?” It just seems strange to back-load all of the truth.
Jay Kang: Yeah. No, I agree with that, but I-
Aaron Lammer: Bitcoin is about don’t trust verify. This whole thing is very Joseph Smithy. It’s like, “Only I can look inside the hat.”
Jay Kang: Okay, but to continue with my take, to respond to that as the believer, I would say that that type of confidence also makes me think that he’s real. He’s just like, “Fuck it, it’s me. Who cares if they don’t believe me?”
Aaron Lammer: Yeah.
Jay Kang: It might be that he is trying to do some huge reveal here. Here’s the other question I have, right? This was an anonymously created site called the Nakamoto Family Foundation, right? It was created on AWS, and suddenly it appears on Bloomberg and then everyone in crypto is talking about it. How was this found? If you type in Nakamoto Satoshi Bitcoin, there’s hundreds of thousands of pages of garbage. It’s not like somebody with a Google alert for Satoshi Nakamoto was going to get this. How was this found?
Aaron Lammer: You know what’s another great historical corollary to this? Is the fake Howard Hughes autobiography.
Jay Kang: I don’t know, what is that?
Aaron Lammer: Basically a journalist claimed that Howard Hughes had brought him into his inner circle and given a bunch of secret extended interviews to write a secret auto … This is during the final days of Howard Hughes when he was a recluse. This guy published, I think his name was Clifford Irving. It was ultimately debunked, I believe, by a woman that Clifford Irving was having an affair with was like, “He did not ever meet Howard Hughes. This is all totally fake.” He basically wrote a fake auto-biography and then sold it for a $2 million advance and published it, and it was totally bogus. But much like this, it’s probably more entertaining than an actual autobiography of Howard Hughes would have been. The actual autobiography probably would have been like this. It would have just been a bunch of fucking grudge settling, but it was like this vibrant, wild autobiography that Clifford Irving had largely strung together through publicly available information. He did a similar act, which is he took things that people already knew to be true and strung them together as if they were secrets.
Jay Kang: Okay. Here’s another similar corollary in the literary world, which is that nobody really knows if J.D. Salinger actually had books that he was writing for the 40 years that he was in seclusion. Some people think he didn’t do anything, and some people say that they saw vaults of books. J.D. Salinger has been dead five years now or six years, and nobody still knows. If some of these things leaked out and you said that this was a text of J.D. Salinger, there’s actually no way to corroborate whether it’s real or not, because the last thing that J.D. Salinger published was this thing called Hapworth 1924, which is an almost incomprehensibly bad story that does not resemble anything else that came before. It was because J.D. Salinger had gotten so into Mahayana Buddhism that the only thing he wanted to write about was Buddhism. The story doesn’t matter. There are no more characters. No character has any sort of motivation, except thinking about the Buddha. There’s no way I think reliably to say that this thing does not look like the thing that happened 10 years ago, and therefore it must not be real.
Aaron Lammer: Yes, I agree with that.
Jay Kang: Okay. That throws out a lot of the debunking that’s been going on right now, because people have already started on the internet, I did look into this a little bit, they’re trying to do matchup things with algorithms and things like that to say this writing style is not like the writing style that happened before.
Aaron Lammer: I think Craig Wright has tried to dispute the chronology of when he met the different early players, like Mike Hearn.
Jay Kang: Yeah, yeah, yeah, he said all the dates are wrong.
Aaron Lammer: Gavin Andresen, he was like, “No, Gavin was before Mike Hearn,” which I can’t comment on, but that would be one way you could criticize it.
Jay Kang: Mike Hearn is featured a lot in this, right?
Aaron Lammer: Yeah.
Jay Kang: Mike Hearn, who was one of the early people who worked on Bitcoin, Mike Hearn could just come out and say whether or not this was real or not, but as far as I know, Mike Hearn hasn’t commented on this at all. Is Mike Hearn a live?
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, I think Hal Finney is the only person who’s not still alive.
Jay Kang: Well, that and the other guy who was a police officer who [crosstalk 00:52:17].
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, the guy in Florida who would have been the Craig Wright partner.
Jay Kang: Yeah.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah. I was a little surprised by some of the tone. He says, “I want to state something that I’m sure Mike will agree with me on, and that is that Bitcoin started as most things do, a love, an idea, a dream.” That is not how I thought Satoshi would talk about Bitcoin. That is like some fast company, “How I did it,” kind of talk that’s like, “You’ve always got to believe in your dreams. When I came up with the idea of Bitcoin, lots of people told me it’ll never work, but I believed in myself.” That is not the tone of Satoshi, I feel pretty clearly.
Jay Kang: Okay, so here’s a followup question for you. All right, if this is Satoshi, and Satoshi now is this guy, what happens to the value of Bitcoin if people can confirm this is Satoshi?
Aaron Lammer: Well, okay, I’m going to give a segue into that. This comments almost nothing on the entire period that Satoshi has gone dark, which is basically the public history of Bitcoin. This does not talk about the Bcash 4. This does not talk about price action. It does not talk about exchange manipulation. It doesn’t talk about Mount Gox. It’s basically got a black hole. You could say that’s all going to be in the book, but none of it’s here. It’s almost like someone wrote this intentionally to not talk about an entire period of time. As a result, and it’s an extremely un-ideological discussion, I would expect that a real Satoshi would be a little bit more like a Saifedean Ammous, someone who is deeply, deeply, passionately interested in economics and what Bitcoin has done for libertarian causes and for the cypherpunk causes. Really, that’s not very much in here. This is like a person who’s just kind of like, “It was such a cool project. It’s grown so much without …” It’s a very cheery take on the history of Bitcoin.
Jay Kang: I believe that that’s also maybe how the real Satoshi would sound.
Aaron Lammer: If you ask me what would the appearance of Satoshi do to Bitcoin, and this is actually Satoshi, just a guy who can write like an Ink Magazine, “How I made it as an entrepreneur in open-source software,” piece, I think that could be good for Bitcoin.
Jay Kang: That [inaudible 00:54:44] Bitcoin. They’re like, “Satoshi seems to be …”
Aaron Lammer: This is kind of the Richard Branson take on Satoshi a little bit.
Jay Kang: I don’t know. Look, we should say that neither of us believe this is actually Satoshi. However, I think I’m much closer to believing that this is him than you are.
Aaron Lammer: I think if Satoshi wants Bitcoin to survive, he’ll never reappear. Everything I know about Satoshi has led me to believe Satoshi is a pretty smart, canny person who’s pretty careful. This does not seem like the actions of a canny, careful person.
Jay Kang: There are details in this that do seem like … Craig Wright says that these details are wrong, but Craig Wright also is a liar. There are ways that you can follow the trail of all of this. I do think that some people are probably doing it right now. I actually read a couple of them, but people tend to default towards the same things, like we were talking about, like trying to match the writing style, etc, etc, to debunk this. I actually think that’s a bad way to do it. I don’t think we’ll actually know the question of whether or not this is real or not. Right now, I’d say I’m about 2% I think this is real until the next excerpt comes out.
Aaron Lammer: That’s interesting. I generally think that a lot of the forensic techniques people use in these, like trying to match people’s writing is pretty flawed.
Jay Kang: Oh yeah.
Aaron Lammer: I would liken it to the blood splatter analysis in the staircase where it’s like yeah, there’s certain things you can read into it, but the idea that it’s one to one like DNA testing, it’s not. That’s not how these things work, particularly once you inject layers of editing over the top or if someone’s imitating an academic writing style. There’s just a lot of factors. I even think with the chronology, if I were to find out factually that he met Gavin Andresen before he met Mike Hearn, that would not dissuade me from believing this was Satoshi. This was all a decade ago. Do you remember exactly what sequence of your work history happened 10 years ago?
Jay Kang: I remember almost nothing from 10 years ago.
Aaron Lammer: We’re talking about 2008. Jay, what were you doing in 2008, straight off, right off the top of your head, what were you doing?
Jay Kang: I was surfing every day in San Francisco, and I was teaching a half-schedule at a private school, high school English. I think.
Aaron Lammer: I think I was ghostwriting then, but that could have also been 2009 or 2007.
Jay Kang: I literally have no idea, yeah.
Aaron Lammer: This may be, particularly if Satoshi has been drinking that sweet Barbados rum the whole time, he may have very little recollection. He’s like, “I don’t know. I started my computer mining. Who knows?”
Jay Kang: I can’t even remember when we decided to do this podcast.
Aaron Lammer: Exactly.
Jay Kang: It was like a year ago.
Aaron Lammer: Is it also possible that Satoshi is not a crypto nerd and hasn’t been following along closely? If you just got super rich and you were like, “My whole idea was to make the software and the whitepaper. I’m not into day trading or anything like that,” you could actually imagine a scenario in which Satoshi is like, “I don’t really pay attention to Bitcoin anymore,” the same way former pro athletes, some of the guys who are like, “I used to be in the NBA,” and they’re like, “I don’t really watch basketball anymore.”
Another thing is if this is Satoshi, Satoshi has not been able to tell people that he’s Satoshi, right? Probably Satoshi is living, let’s say he’s most likely living with a spouse, and what are the chances that your spouse is also into crypto nerd shit? Very low.
Jay Kang: Hopefully very low.
Aaron Lammer: If I was Satoshi, my wife would still be like, “Shut up about the Bitcoin.”
Jay Kang: It’d be like our wives.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, exactly. There’s no reason to believe … Okay, who was Satoshi? He was 14 when he got into cypherpunk stuff. Okay, so that means he graduated, let’s say he graduated from high school around 1998, if that’s true.
Jay Kang: He’s my age.
Aaron Lammer: He’s your age. In 2008, he was 30-ish. He was a 30-ish working in academic programming, computer science, cryptography kind of stuff maybe. Okay, who’s that person married to? Probably not another cryptographer.
Jay Kang: Hopefully not.
Aaron Lammer: Probably someone in a university town, someone who works with the university or whatever. All of his contact about the Bitcoin project is online as his alter ego. At most, maybe a small handful of people he knows do this. Those people are probably not into Bitcoin. He may not have had a bunch of in-depth conversations with people who were really into Bitcoin. He probably doesn’t go to Bitcoin conferences.
Jay Kang: I would hope he doesn’t go to Bitcoin conferences. This I think is true. I think if Satoshi saw what the, for example, this Jack’s Liberty party on the yacht that was giving away the Aston Martins, he’d be fucking horrified.
Aaron Lammer: Yes, he’d be like, “I’m burning all of my private keys. I fucking want nothing to do with this. I’m so sorry for what I have wrought.”
Jay Kang: Yeah.
Aaron Lammer: He’d probably be like Oppenheimer talking about the atomic bomb. He’d be like, “After I saw the Jack’s Liberty cruise party, I decided to destroy Bitcoin.”
Jay Kang: It’s like MacNamara talking about Vietnam.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah.
Jay Kang: Yeah, look, we did a very compelling case together as to why this Satoshi based-
Aaron Lammer: I think you probably convinced me.
Jay Kang: … entirely on what you and I would do if we were really, really rich.
Aaron Lammer: I think the most, if I were looking for Satoshi right now, and we got to get Adrian back on the show and do another detective episode and see if he’s got any updates for us, because if anyone’s going to figure it out, it’s going to be Adrian. Thinking less about who was Satoshi when he made Bitcoin and thinking more about what has Satoshi been doing during the run of Bitcoin I think is an interesting way to go about it.
If Satoshi is as smart as I think Satoshi is, Satoshi knows that reappearing would be terrible for Bitcoin, probably destroy his own life, and could even land him in jail, depending on how this all goes. Someone who these are people who are obsessed with OPSEC, right? The best OPSEC is don’t tell anyone, don’t reappear. That makes me think it’s not Nick Szabo. That makes me think it’s not even Hal Finney or someone who was intimately involved, because I feel like if those people were Satoshi and they were smart, they would not have anything more to do publicly to do with crypto, because that would obviously incriminate them to do so.
Jay Kang: Yeah, well that’s why I think the best bet for who Satoshi was was always a list of Hal Finney, Nick Szabo, Craig Wright way down, but the usual suspects. Then there’s a field bet, like somebody who we have no idea who it is. The field bet was probably the best chance of all of them. It is somebody who nobody actually knows who actually was able to secure their identity for a long time. That was actually the only reason I thought, when I first started thinking about the Dorian Nakamoto story, the Dorian Nakamoto thing kind of made sense to me, whereas, “Oh, well maybe it is just somebody who was completely random.” I still think that the best-
Aaron Lammer: But that wasn’t someone who was random, because it was someone who had the same name as the person.
Jay Kang: Yeah, that’s true. That small detail.
Aaron Lammer: That’s what’s wrong about all these theories. It’s always someone that there’s something deeply wrong with. This scenario of a person who truly went dark and doesn’t even know about crypto, the best OPSEC, if you’re Satoshi, is to never even think about Bitcoin again.
Jay Kang: Yeah, yeah, and to not worry about it so that you don’t feel like you need to weigh in on things like the 2 X 4 where you’re like, “This might destroy my project, so now I have to weigh in.” You’re just like, “No, you know what? I actually don’t really even know what that is, so I’m not going to worry about it.”
Aaron Lammer: The crazy thing is that if Satoshi is who we think they are, which is a cypherpunk born in 1978, they are probably professionally getting shilled Bitcoin all the time and are probably living as a fake nocoiner. It’s like, “Ah, Bitcoin won’t work.”
Jay Kang: Maybe it’s Nouriel Roubini.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah. Is there going to be another except that comes out from this? Did they say anything about that?
Jay Kang: I really hope so. When [Nirage 01:03:14], our friend sent this to us, I didn’t pay any attention to it. Then I started reading it. Then I was like, “Oh man, this is fucking weird.” That’s why I like it, because it’s weird.
Aaron Lammer: This is unofficially our next book club book.
Jay Kang: I think if it was more credible in the way that it was written, then I would believe it 0%.
Aaron Lammer: Yes. I’ll say that one thing we’ve learned over and over again from scammers in crypto and otherwise is that the best scam is not always the scam that tries the hardest. The Nigerian scam isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel with its copy. It’s the same broken English, “I am a prince. I need to get the money out. My family has gold bars,” story. There’s something powerful about doing things that way. There’s something powerful about this.
Jay Kang: Oh yeah, yeah. People are really shitting on Bloomberg for running with it. I don’t know. I think it’s interesting. If I was Bloomberg’s crypto editor, I might have kind of been like, “This 99% chance is not him,” but I think that’s all I would add. I think I would have run it. I wouldn’t have been like, “Oh, this is just another random crank.” I’d be like, “Hey, this is kind of interesting. Probably not him, but it’s worth looking at.”
Aaron Lammer: I think the failed fiction writer and stunt enthusiast in me is a little envious that I didn’t think to write a fake autobiography of Satoshi Nakamoto. To imagine that Satoshi Nakamoto is toiling away at NC State or something, it’s a really fascinating person to imagine.
Jay Kang: Yeah, yeah. Maybe our Bitcoin movie, we should go more art housey, and we should do-
Aaron Lammer: I like it.
Jay Kang: … an adaptation type movie where we have … Have you seen that Woody Allen movie, New York Stories, which is seven separate small-
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, yeah.
Jay Kang: Yeah, we could do something like that where it’s like seven different sketches of who Satoshi could be.
Aaron Lammer: I thought you were going more of like a Palindromes kind of thing where it’s seven different people play Satoshi at different stages in Satoshi’s story.
Jay Kang: We could do that too. Yeah.
Aaron Lammer: All these low-budget ideas I think are more achievable. We need to build up to the Mad Max, Scorched Earth Bitcoin dystopian movie.
Jay Kang: I don’t think so. I want to go-
Aaron Lammer: With a few art house features to establish our reputation in the crypto movie making field.
Jay Kang: I don’t think that’s a good path, man. I think we’ll make a small art house Bitcoin Satoshi movie that will bomb terribly, and then we’ll be done.
Aaron Lammer: Cool. All right, well should we do another mail bag soon? We’ve been getting some mail bag.
Jay Kang: Yeah, let’s do a mail bag.
Aaron Lammer: Okay. Send us mail bag stuff. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org.
Robot Voice: This episode of Coin Talk was taped Tuesday, July 3rd at 3:00 PM Eastern Standard Time. The Bitcoin price index was $6,572.