The Satoshi Affair
June 21, 2016 6:27 PM   Subscribe

"He put a gun to our head and pulled the trigger," MacGregor told me. "The world is still going to think we got fooled, but I know the facts. He has the keys." Remarkable (and very, very long) article from Andrew O’Hagan, who for six months shadowed Craig Wright from his escape from Australia all the way through his disastrous reveal as Satoshi Nakamoto.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates (86 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
Either he’s one of the greatest computer scientists of his generation, or he’s a reckless opportunist, or he’s both. We can’t be sure.

If someone publicly claims to be one of the greatest computer scientists of his generation, and still leaves doubt when he could easily confirm his identity, then he's just a reckless opportunist. This was clear last time he was in the news, and the time before that.
posted by Rangi at 7:11 PM on June 21, 2016 [25 favorites]


Wait, is this definitive?
posted by sammyo at 7:14 PM on June 21, 2016


Very much not so.
posted by murphy slaw at 7:24 PM on June 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


If someone publicly claims to be one of the greatest computer scientists of his generation, and still leaves doubt when he could easily confirm his identity, then he's just a reckless opportunist.

The real story is just so much more interesting and complicated than this, though. At least as presented by O'Hagan.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:25 PM on June 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


I tried to read this, but I just couldn't. I can't do any more of this breathless, uncritical spy thriller hacker reporting. I spent about ten seconds staring at that picture of Craig Wright writing in white marker on a glass sheet hanging in space, and then got to the part where he's watching The Matrix "30,000 feet above the Tasman Sea", and I had to close the tab. And my eyes, as I slowly counted to ten.

Instead, here's a nice analysis of the problems Bitcoin and Ethereum have been facing recently. It doesn't tell you who Satoshi is, but it's pretty interesting.
posted by phooky at 7:46 PM on June 21, 2016 [24 favorites]


I found Sarah Jeong's tweets (I couldn't find a storify and don't have time to make one, but that's the start of the thread) about the LRB piece slightly more entertaining than the actual piece, not least because 35k words is a lot given the amount of red herring-y stuff.
posted by sparkletone at 7:57 PM on June 21, 2016 [15 favorites]


Independently of whether or not he is in fact Satoshi Nakamoto (spoiler alert, he very probably isn't), it's extremely exaggerated to call Nakamoto, whoever he is, one of the greatest computer scientists of his generation. Bitcoin is mostly hype, and interesting as a social phenomenon. As computer science, it's pretty middle of the road, and I doubt it'll be remembered much, if at all, in 20 years.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:58 PM on June 21, 2016 [15 favorites]


Craig Wright is not Satoshi Nakamoto. I think the most likely scenario is that this originally started as a little lie on Craig Wright's part (perhaps he just got a little thrill from being able to mislead others into thinking he was Satoshi or he just liked to pretend he was someone more important than himself). Once he let it get to the point that individuals were spending serious money based on his claim he could no longer back out without serious consequences, he was stuck just stacking lies on top of lies to avoid revealing his escalating fraud.

There are lots of ways that someone could demonstrate they hold Satoshi's private key — the easiest being just transferring one of the bitcoins known to belong to Satoshi to a third party. There are other ways, as mentioned in Rangi's first link a couple of comments above.

The "proof" Craig Wright eventually offered is so transparently a dodge that I think it is, in of itself, proof that Craig Wright is not Satoshi. I think I've got a good way to explain it to those unfamiliar with cryptography. Imagine you lived in an idealized world where copy machines existed that could produce copies of documents physically indistinguishable from the original. In this world there also exist signature examiners who are infallible. Craig Wright comes up to you and says to you he can prove he is Satoshi, and as proof he goes into the other room and comes back with a document that says "IOU $100. Signed (Satoshi Nakamoto)". The signature examiner confirms that the signature is valid (but could be a copy). Surely you would balk at this proof, right? You'd think it was very strange that the message on the signed document was some nonsense like "IOU $100" instead of "Craig Wright is Satoshi Nakamoto". For that matter, you'd much rather have him sign a document that you produce on the spot, right? We know for a fact that Satoshi Nakamoto is a competent cryptographer and there is no way a competent cryptographer without something to hide would expect anyone to believe the cryptographic equivalent of my little scenario. That Craig Wright asked us to believe it is just desperation on his part.
posted by RichardP at 8:05 PM on June 21, 2016 [21 favorites]


guise don't make fun of wright
he's a goddamn ninja
posted by murphy slaw at 8:15 PM on June 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think Bitcoin is gonna have some influence but as far as I know it pieces together a number of existing ideas more than it breaks completely new ground.

I can actually believe that the creator of Bitcoin is a crank like this but Wright babbling about ECC and binomial distributions feels a lot like someone trying to snow a non-technical reporter. Notice he seems uncomfortable around actual crypto people.
posted by atoxyl at 8:31 PM on June 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


It's as if a million voices cried out "I'M SPARTACUS" and were silenced by sheer indifference from those who understand how that fact could be established without doubt.
posted by nfalkner at 8:35 PM on June 21, 2016 [11 favorites]


Dude spends half of the article talking to people (like Wright's mother!) who say Wright is a pathalogical liar and still takes the most ridiculous claims at, if not face value, a significant percentage thereof. The author's credulity strains belief.
posted by murphy slaw at 8:36 PM on June 21, 2016 [7 favorites]


Wright babbling about ECC and binomial distributions feels a lot like someone trying to snow a non-technical reporter.

That and, like, all of it.
posted by atoxyl at 8:43 PM on June 21, 2016 [7 favorites]


Timothy B. Lee ‏@binarybits Jun 20
@sarahjeong Why would you write 35,000 words about somebody who's obviously not Satoshi?

sarah jeong ‏@sarahjeong Jun 20
@binarybits ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


And just like that, I'm an instafan of Jeong.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:00 PM on June 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


The real story is just so much more interesting and complicated than this, though. At least as presented by O'Hagan.

It's more interesting and complicated in the same way that epicycles and the music of the spheres are more interesting and complicated than orbital mechanics.
posted by murphy slaw at 9:09 PM on June 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


'How I got conned into spending six months with a fraud and still got 34,000 words out of it."
posted by Nelson at 9:25 PM on June 21, 2016 [18 favorites]


I got to the part where his offices were raided and the staff were all herded to the center of the room and forbidden to touch their phones or computers, and couldn't stop picturing Randy Waterhouse sitting on top of his car in a parking garage across the street, desperately trying to wipe the server in that one closet.
posted by not that girl at 9:42 PM on June 21, 2016 [19 favorites]


"Coders call one another liars, when all they really mean is that they disagree about how software should work...So the world that Wright knew best thought he was a liar."

I, however, am not a coder, so when I call him a liar, I mean "he tells lies."
posted by Bugbread at 9:42 PM on June 21, 2016 [14 favorites]


"Coders call one another liars, when all they really mean is that they disagree about how software should work..."

why do i suspect that it was wright who told him that little factoid
posted by murphy slaw at 9:48 PM on June 21, 2016 [13 favorites]


I don't know--even the reporter admits that there's some pretty strong evidence that he is Satoshi, or at least part of the original team that could collectively be called Satoshi. Gavin Andresen, who had communicated with Satoshi at the beginning seemed convinced until Craig wouldn't put the private key into his computer.

That seems absurd. I won't even put my credit card number into any computer except my home computer. This is the freaking original private key.

But really, fame is highly overrated unless that's the only way you make money (like the Kardashians). It seems he wants to be able to use the claim to get some patents, but he's really much better off with no one believing him. The reporter has done him an enormous favor. And to all those here who don't believe him, you are also helping.
posted by eye of newt at 9:57 PM on June 21, 2016


Happy to be of service then.
posted by chavenet at 10:13 PM on June 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


He wanted to be able to use the claim to get all sorts of stuff and extricate himself from a sticky tax situation most likely. The thing is that a convincing proof doesn't actual require him to give a private key to anybody, just to use the private key that matches a known public key to do what private keys do. It's not inconceivable that he decided at the pivotal moment that he'd rather retreat from the spotlight - for reasons of his own, since the story about facing prosecution for the creation of Bitcoin was also bullshit.
posted by atoxyl at 10:16 PM on June 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


But he's definitely 95% full of shit and would be even if he did create Bitcoin.
posted by atoxyl at 10:17 PM on June 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


the story about facing prosecution for the creation of Bitcoin was also bullshit.--atoxyl

I don't know about that.

I'm more amazed at how much false evidence is getting spread about how he couldn't possibly be Satoshi. People really, really don't want him to be Satoshi, and are willing to go to amazing levels of blatantly false statements to 'prove' it. Like I said before, however, he's much better off for their efforts.
posted by eye of newt at 10:27 PM on June 21, 2016


(better link)
posted by eye of newt at 10:32 PM on June 21, 2016


I thought some large percentage of all bit coins were owned by only three or so shadowy entities who were cycling transactions through thousands of IDs in an effort to disguise their hoard. If there is a Satoshi, wouldn't he have a fortune in bitcoins now? Perhaps its addressed in the article, but I dozed off after the first 10000 words.
posted by benzenedream at 10:41 PM on June 21, 2016


I'm still pissed that I lost my early Bitcoin wallet from way way way back in the day when Bitcoin was this really obscure idea that I thought was more like the SETI home computing project and less an actual way that you could make a shitload of money. That wallet is worth a decent amount of cash but the blockchain keys are long lost and I really don't remember any of the identifying details of it. Sighs.
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:05 PM on June 21, 2016


The real Satoshi has around 1 million bitcoins (670 million dollars) and probably isn't interested in being a patent troll.
posted by bhnyc at 11:10 PM on June 21, 2016


I don't know about that.

Yes, that's in the article. Did you read the article?

I'm talking about this bit

The next day, he sent me an email. It linked to an article headlined ‘UK Law Enforcement Sources Hint at Impending Craig Wright Arrest’. The article suggested that the father of bitcoin might be liable, under the Terrorism Act, for the actions of people who used bitcoin to buy weapons.

which (the author doesn't mention) was a hoax article.

I didn't say anything about "couldn't possibly be." In fact I said it's not impossible that he's both a compulsive bullshitter and the guy - or I think more likely would be one of a few people - behind the Nakamoto pseudonym. I am certain however that he's the former - dude says he's a damn ninja and I don't mean a programming ninja. And either he doesn't have the key he says he has or he is choosing not to prove it.
posted by atoxyl at 11:17 PM on June 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


He claims that there is a trust with this money.

After searching around, there's are a number of really strange stories going around, such as this one where his now desceased friend Dave Kleiman is also said to be involved in the beginning and supposedly had a similar trust even though he died "broke and in squalor".

I'm not going to do anymore searching, though, because it is this big, dark, Internet rabbit hole, just like everything related to Bitcoins. And reading about it ends up like reading the comments section of TMZ--I feel like I have to clean the mud out of my brain when I'm done.
posted by eye of newt at 11:25 PM on June 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


frictionless money
futuristic and secure
sorry for your loss

To the Moon we go
Oh no, the price crashed again
Back to Mom’s Basement
posted by a lungful of dragon at 11:28 PM on June 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


Again. This is a lying liar who lies. Not maybe, not possibly, not reasonable peopel can disagree. We have him red handed, thanks to the very cryptography he lied about creating.

Every ounce of attention we pay this liar encourages and enriches him. He's just some fraud, one of many who would dearly like to be a billionaire. Stop encouraging him. You'll make more.
posted by effugas at 11:34 PM on June 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


Wright was soon 30,000 feet above the Tasman Sea watching the programmer Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) being chased by unknowable agents in The Matrix. Wright found the storyline strangely comforting; it was good to know he wasn’t alone.

So, anyway, what happened to the London Review of Books that they are printing this Clevelandesque steamer?
posted by a lungful of dragon at 11:38 PM on June 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


I imagine his whole life has been like this.

Store clerk: "Driver's license, sir."
Wright: "I assure you I am of drinking age."
Store clerk: "I understand that, sir, but you need to show your driver's license as proof of age. I know you have a driver's license, you parked your car in front of the store."
Wright: "Okay, I'm going to show you my driver's license, in just a few minutes."
(People behind him in line wait anxiously for him to unveil his driver's license and get on with it. Minutes pass.)
Wright: "Here's another piece of ID that doesn't have my age or date of birth on it. See? I'm old enough to buy this alcohol."
Store clerk: "Sorry, sir, I need to see your driver's license."
Wright: "You know what, I'm not going to jump through any more hoops for you."
(leaves store without beer)
posted by Bugbread at 11:46 PM on June 21, 2016 [19 favorites]


Why does everyone assume Satoshi Nakamoto is a single genius programmer and not a government-launched program? Granted I don't know all the details of this, but I find it unlikely that complex yet perfectly designed software and 11 billion dollars were magically concocted out of thin air by one guy who no one can identify.

I feel like if X years from now if it was revealed to have been launched as an NSA currency/Internet hedge everyone will look at it and say "well, of course."
posted by lubujackson at 11:48 PM on June 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


lubujackson: "Granted I don't know all the details of this, but I find it unlikely that complex yet perfectly designed software and 11 billion dollars were magically concocted out of thin air by one guy who no one can identify."

I don't know all the details, either, but my understanding is that it is not perfectly designed.

As for the 11 billion dollars, we know they were not "magically concocted out of thin air" by one guy. That's like saying "the New York Stock Exchange is worth $15 trillion. Why would we believe that one person could magically concoct $15 trillion out of thin air?"
posted by Bugbread at 12:19 AM on June 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


"In the end he would shrug, as if the most obscure things were actually obvious."
posted by gkr at 3:28 AM on June 22, 2016


I guess I don't care enough about Bitcoin, because to me the story here is incredible either way: either 1) CW is the inventor of Bitcoin and for a number of reasons (personality disorder[s], fear of imprisonment), he walked back his admission at the very final possible moment or 2) he is an incredible scam artist who not only conned a large number of very intelligent people into believing that he was SN, he also got them to bankroll his research. It's a great story. Even if it makes people mad.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:57 AM on June 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


I really want Wright to be Satoshi, but Jeong's (hilarious) tweetstorm makes a really damn compelling case for him being a world-class bullshitter, and (towards the end) does a good job of exploring how Wright could've fooled even people who communicated and collaborated with Satoshi directly.

Skip the article. Read the tweets.
posted by rorgy at 5:56 AM on June 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


So, remove Craig Wright from the situation: are there people out there who are still alive who definitively know who SN is? Because to me that's another really interesting aspect of this. They can either confirm or deny that Wright is SN, but they don't because... reasons. I read the entire article and still don't really know.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:00 AM on June 22, 2016


There may be people who know who Satoshi is, there may not be. If the person (or persons) who are Satoshi have never bothered to use the private key to definitively tie their real identity to Satoshi with a third party, it may be that no one but Satoshi knows.

But there is a simple test that can prove that someone is Satoshi, and Wright either flunked it or refused to take it at the last minute.
posted by murphy slaw at 6:17 AM on June 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


But there is a simple test that can prove that someone is Satoshi, and Wright either flunked it or refused to take it at the last minute.

I think that's pretty well covered by now. But the questions of "why?" and "how did it get that far?" that spring from his actions are so interesting to me. The "why?" is interesting because there are multiple legitimate answers to it. There is the basic "he's a con man who was looking for money, adoration, or political weight" but there is also the straightforward "he was in dire financial straits and this was the only way to get out from under his debts." The "how did it get that far?" is also interesting, and sort of what I'm getting at with my question about who else might be SN. I'm correct in thinking, right, that SN wrote from his/her account that the guy in California was NOT the real SN? So if the real SN did it for that person, why not confirm or deny the same with CW?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:24 AM on June 22, 2016


Maybe they figured that Wright was doing a perfectly good job of discrediting himself?
posted by murphy slaw at 6:26 AM on June 22, 2016


Right! Imagine being the real SN and watching this all go down, and just letting CW twist in the wind. Like I said, an incredible story. Not sure what else to compare it to. Something about "anonymous genius creates own currency and technology, lets others claim to be him, never uses his original blocks" that is hitting all of my buttons.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:29 AM on June 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I don't think we fundamentally disagree. It's a fascinating story. It's just that the article is a borderline incompetent, obfuscatory investigation of that story.
posted by murphy slaw at 6:31 AM on June 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


or 2) he is an incredible scam artist who not only conned a large number of very intelligent people into believing that he was SN, he also got them to bankroll his research. It's a great story.

My money is on option 2, but this article fails to tell that great story. To tell a scam story, you have to eventually understand what happened to you enough to report it. The author isn't there yet, and consistently cops out in a way that isn't fair to the reader.

Sarah Jeong's tweets do a good job of summarizing the problem:

"can someone spoil this for me and tell me if he ever consults an actual technical expert at any point"

"The purplest way anyone has ever said 'I am completely out of my element.'" (Regarding a paragraph where the author describes the experience of being manipulated, but attributes it to "the walls of virtual reality" rather than the scammer.)

"Wow this guy sure is inconsistent and often unconvincing as Satoshi / ah, fuck it, it's probably just some nerd shit" (Regarding a paragraph where coders accuse Wright of fraud because "that's what they're like.")

Basically the scam involves playing up the mysteries of technology in a way that isn't fair to actual technologists, or to non-technologists who are perfectly capable of understanding what's going on given an actual explanation, and it's not cool to write about it without seeing through that. It's like, I don't know, reporting on a perpetual motion machine while still buying into the slanders of the scientific community that are necessary to prop up the scam.
posted by john hadron collider at 7:14 AM on June 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


And just like that, I'm an instafan of Jeong.

She's a treasure. If you have the most marginal of interest in copyright law you might enjoy looking through the archives of the apparently-now-defunct 5 Useful Things newsletter.
posted by phearlez at 7:25 AM on June 22, 2016


I'd forgotten about Craig Wright already. Satoshi Nakamoto I do remember though.
posted by comealongpole at 7:38 AM on June 22, 2016


Or there's the other possibility: Wright is actually Satoshi, and is aware that sooner or later, he'd be found out as such (and presumably he and his family would then be at risk of kidnapping/blackmail as the world's crooks try to get their hands on that sweet, sweet Bitcoin stash), and so decided that the best course of action is to preemptively discredit himself as a potential Satoshi, by incompetently claiming to be Satoshi, and concocting a plausible case for being some kind of attention-seeking glory-hound. That way, when the circumstantial evidence emerges, everyone will dismiss it, and he will be free to live his life in peace, hiding in plain sight disguised as a charlatan.
posted by acb at 7:39 AM on June 22, 2016


acb, the fact that that is even remotely plausible makes this whole story really interesting to me. Privately, he "proves" to Andresen that he is SN, but in the process, he suffers a legitimate breakdown. The next day, his public reveal is a fabrication, complete bullshit, and the whole thing burns to the ground. It would be far-fetched in a novel or a film, but the fact that it actually happened that way -- I mean whatever his motivations, he is playing such a really weird, high-stakes game with his and other people's lives.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:48 AM on June 22, 2016


"He claims that there is a trust with this money."

But, if I remember correctly, those bitcoins have never moved thus they've never been converted into any other currency so how is there a trust?
posted by I-baLL at 7:51 AM on June 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


The trust is full of bitcoins, not money (according to Wright).
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:53 AM on June 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Hence one of Jeong's twitter correspondents referring to the trust as the "Canadian girlfriend of this scenario".
posted by murphy slaw at 7:54 AM on June 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


"The trust is full of bitcoins, not money (according to Wright)."

Yeah, but if they've never been moved then how are they in a trust? They're still in the original wallet.
posted by I-baLL at 7:57 AM on June 22, 2016


"Hence one of Jeong's twitter correspondents referring to the trust as the "Canadian girlfriend of this scenario"."

Ah, okay, I see. So basically supposedly somebody is in possession of the original wallet. Makes sense. Thanks!
posted by I-baLL at 7:58 AM on June 22, 2016


acb, the fact that that is even remotely plausible makes this whole story really interesting to me.

The scenario where Wright is SN but decides to hide it for some reason is not even remotely plausible. What the 35k word article does a great job of doing, whether this was the reporter's intent or not, is showing that Wright is the type of guy who claims credit for everything around him, no matter how unrealistic. His martial arts listing is a great example. This is not a shrinking violet who will end up obscuring his role in something. Wright is the kind of guy who would have revealed he was SN years ago if he really was SN. He is the kind of guy who would reveal he was SN is someone put a gun to his head and said he would die if he was SN. He's that kind of pathological.

It completely boggles my mind that anyone who read that article would think of him as anything other than a scam artist. Scam artists are interesting, but not because they may plausibly be what they otherwise claim to be. The plausibility is just like that of a conspiracy theory (i.e., founded on outlandishness), and is part of the scam.
posted by OmieWise at 8:00 AM on June 22, 2016


"The trust is actually five ancient artifacts scattered across the world in far-flung locations," he tells me, "guarded by fearsome monsters and dastardly traps. When they are assembled, they will spell out the private key that unlocks the bitcoins." I shift in my chair. Craig Wright stares deep into my soul. "The odds of survival are slim; success, slimmer. But I have here a scrap of parchment which I believe will reveal the location of the first artifact." The dark, soulful eyes grow brighter. "Will you come with me, friend, on this grand adventure?"
posted by phooky at 8:00 AM on June 22, 2016 [10 favorites]


Yes, the trust thing is super shady. From the article:

"I asked Wright about this and he told me it was true that his and Kleiman's mining activity had led to a complicated trust. The trust question was persistently vague: not only how many trusts but the names of the trustees, and the dates of their formation."

Later, after everything goes to shit, this:

"The next day, I turned up at MacGregor's office and found him sitting with Matthews in a dark meeting room. They were hunched over the desk, exhausted and shellshocked. When I asked them what happened MacGregor shook his head. It was the first time in six months I'd heard him sounding incoherent. ‘Craig happened,’ he said. ‘He got cute with the math. He has been trying to get consent from the trustees to get the private keys … But he wasn't allowed access to coin or to do anything other than that. So what he was trying to do was re-sign a message …’ Matthews butted in, saying Wright never had authorisation from the trust to use the key publicly or let anyone take it away."

So there is some secret cabal that controls when and how and if Wright can release certain information. Part of the trust document says "All bitcoin will be returned to Dr right on 1 January 2020," so I guess we'll see if someone starts selling a lot of bitcoin in early 2020!
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:02 AM on June 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


If a bitcoin still has any value in 2020 I will be genuinely surprised. The implementation is approaching several serious technical hurdles imminently.
posted by murphy slaw at 8:06 AM on June 22, 2016


It'll be "vintage" bitcoin at that point and the original Genesis block will be sold at auction for tens of millions of dollars as a historical oddity.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:08 AM on June 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


murphy slaw: "It's just that the article is a borderline incompetent, obfuscatory investigation of that story."

It's almost as if the journalist was hired by Wright to accompany him on his zany adventure.
posted by chavenet at 8:12 AM on June 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


When a simple, obvious solution is available to prove something and the claimant refuses to prove by that route and instead will only prove their claim using a complex and obscure solution; that person is lying.
posted by humanfont at 8:21 AM on June 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


Apparently he really does have a supercomputer (#3 on this list, #15 in the world in 2015), even though SGI says he made false claims that they helped set it up.

Not only that, you can take a free webinar "master class" in supercomputer programming, using this computer, taught by Craig Wright himself.

That doesn't add to the Satoshi argument one way or the other, but I thought it was interesting.
posted by eye of newt at 8:35 AM on June 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


The parts that stick with me:
The dude who was given the early draft of the bit coin white paper by wright. This seems like a really really looking con....

The trust doesn't make any obvious kind of sense. There's one way can make it work, though: satoshi isn't one person, but there original founders group, who decided to stash the private keys. Wright can't admit this because he's claiming to be the one and only satoshi. And maybe he was close enough to be part of satoshi, or at least know some of the people involved closely; but the lies and the hubris force him to call the other founders a trust, rather than what they are.

Such a group would certainly include hal Finney, who is now dead. If his brain is one of the five ancient artifacts the keys have between stashed in, then they're now unrecoverable anyway.

There's juuuuust enough there to make this seem like not quite entirely bullshit. But mostly bullshit, none the less.

Another part that struck me was that post of the whole business venture was dealing with Wright's debts and failing businesses. This indicates he never had the keys, because he could just cash some early bit coin if he needed the money that badly...
posted by kaibutsu at 9:00 AM on June 22, 2016


There's one way can make it work, though: satoshi isn't one person, but there original founders group, who decided to stash the private keys.

One of the more interesting screeds I have read on the internet was a reddit post on how SN was actually a group of people who were controlled by people who were loosley connected to the Gnomes of Zurich/Illuminati/Greys/etc and that bitcoin is just one of many pieces in play. One fascinating derail of this fable was the rise of the oligarchs in Russia after the fall of the wall for the purpose of gaining control of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf to use/mine the methane clathrates as fuel/weapons after the collapse of oil.

I'm conspiracy-minded for entertainment purposes, so I've read some screeds, but man, this one was epic. So, thanks for reminding me of it, I guess.
posted by eclectist at 9:47 AM on June 22, 2016


I was gonna say - Hal Finney is the guy who might know/might be the guy/ might be one of the guys - and is dead. So that scenario is not implausible.
posted by atoxyl at 10:05 AM on June 22, 2016


Folks, Craig Wright is a liar and fraud. He is not Satoshi Nakomoto. He is also allegedly a tax cheat and maybe a little sociopathic. He is not Satoshi. This 35,000 word article is a waste of the reader's time and the author's six months; a shame, because it could have been fascinating were he willing to write a piece from the fraud angle. At least it's spawned articles like Why Craig Wright so desperately wanted to be Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto (Fusion).

Can someone put the London Review of Books in context for me? I assume it's a smart publication. But between this article and the highly controversial Seymor Hersh piece on Osama bin Laden, they seem to have a knack for publishing very long articles with ambiguous truthiness. Perhaps my sample size of two is not fair.

(FWIW, my money is on "Satoshi Nakomoto" being a pseudonym for a government group, probably the US, probably NSA. I think there's too many creative new technologies in Bitcoin to have invented by one person. And the discipline of that consortium to never once spill the secret afterwards or spend any of the $100Ms they have points to a government group to me, not some random cypherpunks. NSA is by far the most capable agency, but it could also be Russian or Israeli or British or maybe even Chinese. I have zero evidence for my theory.)
posted by Nelson at 10:14 AM on June 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


At least it's spawned articles like Why Craig Wright so desperately wanted to be Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto (Fusion).

Huh? I mean, the article you link to is just cutting/pasting stuff from the original article. Though I do agree with the last sentence: "While Wright may not have created Bitcoin, he has orchestrated a drama worthy of a John le Carre novel."
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:21 AM on June 22, 2016


And the discipline of that consortium to never once spill the secret afterwards or spend any of the $100Ms they have points to a government group to me, not some random cypherpunks

Or the person who had access to it died (Finney? Kleiman?) or lost it.
posted by atoxyl at 11:13 AM on June 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


To tell a scam story, you have to eventually understand what happened to you enough to report it.

I actually found it more entertaining that he totally didn't but YMMV.
posted by atoxyl at 11:20 AM on June 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Coders call one another liars, when all they really mean is that they disagree about how software should work
Strange; I must have skipped that Jargon File entry.
posted by roystgnr at 11:53 AM on June 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Having read about 60% of these 35K words, I kept returning to a variation of atoxyl's idea; that Wright knew Satoshi, who was his late friend Kleinman, and knew enough to make a plausible case to be him. Maybe that's addressed at the end of hte article but it might take me a week or two to get there.
posted by msalt at 4:32 PM on June 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't think much of Kleiman's public work goes all that deep into crypto though - not that this definitely proves he didn't know enough. Finney is a popular candidate because he was a noted contributor to the Cypherpunk mailing list, did academic work that directly prefigures Bitcoin, and is known to have contributed to it - in fact he was the recipient of the very first transaction from "Satoshi" to another party. The counterpoint is that his contributions are so open that it's hard to see why he would have needed also to use a pseudonym, fake emails to himself, etc. He's definitely a good candidate for having known the identity of Satoshi but he also died rather tragically (of ALS) in 2014. (And he always maintained that he did not know, having only communicated electronically).

I think the idea that it was a few people collaborating under one name is quite plausible. I think part of the case people made for Wright was that Satoshi used British spelling and idioms but I don't know how much that means.
posted by atoxyl at 5:15 PM on June 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


There's a real Two Cultures thing going on in the way people respond to this piece. Probably if I was a computer science/cryptography type with any sort of investment in the question of WHO IS SATOSHI?! I'd be annoyed by it too. But it's not written for those people, it's written for general readers who probably haven't even heard of Satoshi. It's about mysteries of character rather than technical mysteries, and it tells a great story.
posted by Mocata at 2:45 AM on June 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


If you're not involved with Bitcoin "who is Satoshi" is a parlor game. What bugs CS/crypto people to no end about this is how little interest he shows in consulting with us - meaning subject matter experts or meaning, you know, us personally.
posted by atoxyl at 9:47 AM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


He does say he 'wrote to four Princeton and Stanford cryptocurrency experts ... Some of them did want to see the evidence, but they didn’t want to be seen responding to it and I never heard from them again.' I'm sure he consulted others too for some of the technical stuff. The problem is that if you're not inside the field you're entirely dependent on others to point you to the authorities to ask. But it's hard to farm out all your judgments to people whose expertise you can't assess and who might have hobby-horses of their own.
posted by Mocata at 10:35 AM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


As I said to me it was worth reading anyway - the whole nCrypt thing is a crazy story. And if an established crypto person had shown up I suspect Wright might have thrown them out. It's just kind of frustrating that nowhere appears the disclaimer that the sort of evidence people want could be established without anybody even flying to Oceania, that cryptography provides tools for that exact purpose. Because that simple contex really focuses the questions you have to ask.
posted by atoxyl at 11:10 AM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


So, is Gavin Andresen not considered an established crypto person?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 11:26 AM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Well he's an established Bitcoin person - he's also someone who was holding keys (metaphorical, not mathematical) that Wright very much wanted the use of, and someone who was likely somewhat dazzled by the prospect of meeting his hero. And Wright put him through this crazy convoluted process. So that's not who I would send or how I would approach it if I wanted to get to the bottom of the issue but I'm not suggesting LRB should have been more aggressive about it because I don't think Wright and his handlers would have put up with it. I just think it would have been a good idea for the author to go in with a stronger grounding in the technical realities.
posted by atoxyl at 11:44 AM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Gotcha. So, to follow-up on that -- is the opinion among cryptos that GA was just sort of hypnotized and bamboozled by Wright? That he was basically the mark in a long con? Because as far as I can tell, he's still standing by his story that he thinks CW is actually SN. Which is interesting because he's one of the two guys who was given a private demonstration.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 11:48 AM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you squint hard enough, it does all read a bit like a Mamet play, doesn't it?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 11:52 AM on June 23, 2016


Or let me put it another way - it's one thing to spend weeks reporting and write 35,000 words and be forced to say "I still don't know" in the end. It's another to spend weeks reporting and write 35,000 words and have it be obvious that it was preordained that the conclusion would be "I don't know" because the whole thing was set up in a way that couldn't possibly answer the question. That's interesting in a way in its own right but it's also frustrating.

I'm not a professional cryptographer or a bitcoiner or anything so I won't tell you what other people think. But it's not hard to explain in layman' terms what better proof would look like. Hell, forget talking about keypairs just spend some of the original coins! That's the whole irony - the system Wright claims to have developed is a system for establishing consensus in public! So if he won't what's the explanation? Occam's Razor, as invoked in the piece would suggest I think that he's lying top to bottom - which he demonstrably does constantly - or that he can't do a real public demo for some reason but won't admit it. There are not strictly the only possibilities but what seems likely?
posted by atoxyl at 12:24 PM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Because as far as I can tell, he's still standing by his story that he thinks CW is actually SN

Dan Kaminsky's e-mail exchange last month with Gavin Andresen suggests to me that Andresen is no longer certain about Wright. I think the most likely explanation is that being a cryptographer does not make one immune to the sorts of strategies con artists attempting affinity fraud have long used to play upon the good nature of others.
posted by RichardP at 1:09 PM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Dan is metafilter's own effugas, btw
posted by phearlez at 1:29 PM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


RichardP -- I did read that awhile back, but I think Andresen still stands behind CW as SN because his post is still up on his site. And I couldn't find anything online that says he's actually walked back his belief. But if he *has* walked it back, I'd love to see it.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:40 PM on June 23, 2016


Arsenio, as far as I know Andresen has not subsequently said anything that is clearly a disavowal of his statement that he believes Wright invented bitcoin.
posted by RichardP at 1:57 PM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


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