In this week’s The New Yorker, Joshua Davis writes a damn fine real-life mystery: who is “Satoshi Nakamoto,” the creator of bitcoin, a digital currency created in the wake of the economic collapse that has been variously described as “anarchic,” a “scam,” and the “evolution of money”? Davis settles on a suspect, but today, Adam Penenberg over at Fast Company suggests Davis may have found the wrong man.
I’d highly recommend everyone read both stories–Davis’s in particular (subscription required, though of course it’s worth it) is a surprisingly rollicking page-turner, given that its focus is just about the wonkiest technology out there–but in short: Bitcoin is a currency created by a person or persons going by the name “Satoshi Nakamoto.” Created in 2009, in response to the economic crisis, it is a wholly anonymous, all-digital currency, with no possible government intervention–a protest as well as a service. It’s controversial, to say the least; it’s been used both to buy falafels and heroin over the internet, with neither purchase the least bit traceable.
Nakamoto’s secrecy has been part of the allure of bitcoin. As might be expected, given that it was created by an undeniable expert or experts in cryptography, Nakamoto has never been found. But Davis and Penenberg both analyze the prolific (and impressively eloquent) writing attributed to Nakamoto on the subject of bitcoin and its place in the global economy, and go on the hunt for the person behind the currency, leading them to such exotic locales as Ireland, Santa Barbara, and rural Kentucky. I won’t spoil either piece by saying whether Nakamoto has actually been found. Go read them. Now! What else are you doing, really?