Does it really matter who Satoshi Nakamoto is?
Over the past few days, the crypto world has been holding a magnifying lens up to the trial of one Craig Wright – an otherwise relatively unremarkable Australian who is claiming to be the rather remarkable creator of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto. The latter has long been shrouded in a lens of mystery, despite having such a large hand in launching the cryptocurrency industry – and despite being the largest holder of Bitcoinin the world. If Craig Wright is Satoshi, in other words, it could be a big deal.
Or could it? Let’s take it apart piece by piece to find out.
Who is Craig Wright?
If someone were to ask you what kind of background the founder of Bitcoin would have, it may be something like Craig Wright’s. Holding multiple advanced degrees – including a doctorate of computer science and economics and a doctorate of theology – Wright’s been the CEO of technology firm Hotwire and was the founder of cryptocurrency company DeMorgan Ltd.
Wright is among those who believes he fits the profile for Satoshi – to the point that some allege he staged a hoax to mislead Wired and Gizmondo into running an expose about him being Satoshi in 2015. Several in the industry, including Bitcoin developer Jeff Garzik and security researcher Dan Kaminsky, have called foul on Wright’s claims.
The situation escalated so much that on February 5, Wright was brought to London High Court by the Crypto Open Patent Alliance to prove he is Satoshi. In the first few days of the trial, Wright has failed to produce the conclusive evidence he claims to have.
If Wright is Satoshi
If Wright does manage to prove that he is Satoshi, it means that he’s the founder of the largest cryptocurrency in the world, currently sitting at a market cap of almost $900 billion. It also means that he holds around $30 billion worth of Bitcoin himself. Certainly, having that much wealth is a big deal to whoever has it, but what effect does it really have on bitcoin?
The Power of Being a Founder
Investors are rightly concerned when there’s a single person associated with a product or brand. That person (take Elon Musk, for example) could make one statement about the brand (such as how he’s taking Tesla private) and a series of wild price fluctuations could follow.
Having a famous and powerful founder, in other words, can seriously affect brand and product stability. But is that true for Bitcoin? Because of cryptocurrency’s decentralized nature, perhaps those same rules don’t really apply.
Crypto is different
Whoever Satoshi is, they founded Bitcoin on the premise of escaping centralization. By taking power away from a single point – being the centralized banks, in this case – it removes the ability of governments to hold sway over the value of bitcoin. In the same fashion, decentralization removes the power from the founders of cryptocurrency. With your typical fiat currencies, a nation’s leader (or the head of a central bank) holds immense power over the currency itself, able to print more of it, change interest rates or even (arbitrarily) set its value. Imagine the madness such ego-driven antics would cause if that sort of thing were possible with cryptocurrency. Thankfully, cryptocurrency operates like gold and other precious metals in that regard, tangible assets that have value outside of a centralized group dictating its value and rules.
When it comes to the U.S. dollar, the decisions of Joe Biden or whoever else might be sitting in that chair are going to have daily impacts on its value, and we’ve all see the runaway inflation that’s been happening lately thanks to the actions of our leaders. Every few months, the Fed tries making a few tweaks crossing their fingers and hoping for a good outcome, and the truth is the slightest bad move could topple the entire house of cards.
Cryptocurrency doesn’t have that sort of shaky foundation, though. Think about it. The biggest move Satoshi could make would be to sell all of their Bitcoin at once, which, sure, could lead to the price plummeting – just before it climbed way back up as others sweep in to take advantage of the discount. He really has no special power as a “founder”, and is really little more than a common crypto whale, someone with a large stake in a cryptocurrency.
On a global level, the Bitcoin cat is out of the bag. People around the world are demanding Bitcoin not because Satoshi holds some (or doesn’t), but because they need an alternative to crumbling fiat currencies. That trend does not appear to be slowing.
To make a final point, let’s consider the co-founder of Ethereum, Vitalik Buterin. A public figure from day one, Buterin has traveled the world to promote the benefits of blockchain technology – emphasizing throughout that the decentralization of the network is its best feature. He’s made deals in Russia, China, and elsewhere, and been recognized for his philanthropy.
On the one hand, you have an essentially anonymous and enigmatic figure in Satoshi Nakamoto, and on the other, you have a founder who is taking an active role in the development of his product in Vitalik Buterin. What do they both ultimately have in common?
Decentralization. Regardless of who the “leader” of Bitcoin or Ethereum is, regardless of whether they are pushing to stabilize their product or are completely hands off with it, no one person, government, or bank has control over bitcoin and Ethereum. Though perhaps Buterin can use his public persona to sway sentiment and attempt to unite the Ethereum community behind his vision for it, the ultimate power lies with its users, not with him. So even though Bitcoin and Ethereum are different in many ways, including having a publicly visible founder or not, they both share the most important part of blockchain technology: nobody controls it.
In that way, both coins are working exactly as their founders intended.