Many have been accused of hiding this identity, and some have even claimed the name for themselves. Few, however, have put in as much effort as the latest aspirant, who on Sunday published a 21 page teaser of a book that will allegedly spill all the secrets of the early days of Bitcoin.
On a newly-registered domain, the excerpt, titled "Duality", combines a potted history of the origins of Bitcoin, including the trials and tribulations of the early days, with supposed insight into Satoshi’s personal background.
While the letter shows detailed knowledge of those involved in the early days of Bitcoin’s development, including Hal Finney, Adam Back and Wei Dai, it does not bring any significant new information. Many of the details—like the trivia around Satoshi’s family background—are already available in the public domain, suggesting that the narrative could be just another work of fiction.
Furthermore, no verifiable cryptographic proof is provided of the author’s identity. Only a cryptogram that points to the title of the two yet-to-be-released books—Honne and Tatemae—The Japanese concepts of contrast “between a person’s true feelings and desires” and “the behavior and opinions displayed in public.”
Image from http://nakamotofamilyfoundation.org
For Bitcoin maximalists, Satoshi’s word is law and his vision is flawless, so his disappearance is probably the most contentious mystery in the whole crypto space. With little hard evidence to draw from, conspiracies abound as to his real identity. Some claim that Satoshi is an agent of Russia or China, and others say that he is a time traveler, or even the anonymous representative of one or several of the early pioneers of cryptocurrency—Nick Szabo, Hal Finney, Wei Dai, David Chaum, etc.
Given that anyone can easily claim the identity, it is easy to dismiss all claims as fraudulent, like in the case of self-proclaimed Satoshi Craig Wright, who sparked outrage from the community for claiming the name, and then failing to deliver proof.
Is the ‘Duality’ author really Satoshi?
There are ways that “anonymous” identities can be verified. Used correctly, Stylometric Analysis can help reveal the person behind the pseudonym, just like it was used to reveal that was really JK Rowling hiding behind the pen of crime novelist Robert Galbraith.
This form of analysis has also been used to analyse the quirks in Satoshi’s writing style—word choice, tone, sentence construction, contraction use etc—and match them with the potential claimants of the Satoshi name.
The original Satoshi, first writing on Bitcointalk in 2009, expressed himself in crisp, elegant sentences, in a style that was consistent across all posts, and the Bitcoin white paper.
Even without forensically scrutinizing “Duality”, a cursory look over the writing reveals grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and a style that doesn’t resemble Satoshi's Bitcointalk posts, or the white paper. The author is clearly aware of this, and includes this caveat to the reader:
“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, I also notice that I take myself much less serious now, probably attributed to age. Trying as a twenty-something to appear older than what you are in a community that counts age as experience in order to throw people off and get them to accept your work, while trying to push something you so strongly believe in, oh the things you'll do in order to be taken more serious...”
Although the plain-text website evokes the authentic minimalist cypherpunk aesthetic, the meandering discourse is a distinct divergence from the terse sentences of Satoshi’s original posts. As pointed out on Twitter:
A marketing ploy?
More likely than the second coming of Satoshi, perhaps, is an elaborate marketing ploy—an advertisement to hype the upcoming book, which will undoubtedly benefit from the widespread publicity.
Should Satoshi, after years of secrecy, be finally releasing a memoir—then he would have little need for such a marketing method, and would probably be unwilling to risk compromising the anonymity he has worked so hard to retain. The original Satoshi left little trace, leaving the community guessing at his identity from limited data like the timestamps of his forum posts.
If he was now in fact to return, then doubtless he would be accused of being just another ‘faketoshi’, until he could prove possession of the keys to the Genesis block.
Let’s just hope he hasn't lost them.