Blockchain co-inventor, Scott Stornetta talks about the origins of the name “Satoshi Nakamoto” and why he isn’t him.
The original Bitcoin (BTC) whitepaper references eight works. One of them is a general book on probability, the rest are foundational to the cryptocurrency space. Three of those works were co-authored by Stornetta. In a 1991 paper, “How to time-stamp a digital document”, Stornetta and his longtime partner Stuart Haber proposed a decentralized scheme that would allow to certify when a file was created or changed:
“We propose computationally practical procedures for digital time-stamping of such documents so that it is infeasible for a user either to back-date or to forward-date his document.”
For blockchain history buffs — the paper references work by the future Turing award recipient and Algorand (ALGO) founder Silvio Micali.
Many of the principles proposed in this and subsequent papers were later used by Satoshi Nakamoto. However, long before Bitcoin, Huber and Stornetta started their own blockchain network that is considered to be the first of its kind and is still running till this day.
As a recent convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Stornetta went as a missionary to Japan, which allowed him to become fluent in Japanese and later afforded him a job as a patent translator.
Discussing possible interpretations of the name “Satoshi Nakamoto,” Stornetta said:
“You can buy an entire dictionary that is just about a Japanese name. And so Satoshi could have 20 different kanji that back it up. But I am just naturally inclined to think that ‘satoru’ is a Japanese word ‘to know,’ ‘to be wise’.”
On the other hand, the last name “Nakamoto” is a very common Japanese name, just “like Smith or Johnson.” However, if one was to break it down into kanjis, then one possible interpretation would be:
“‘Naka,’ just obviously means the center of, ‘moto’ is the origin of.”
Similar interpretations gave rise to a conspirological idea that Bitcoin was created by the Central Intelligence Agency.
On why he is not Satoshi
Although his work and Japanese fluency make Stornetta a perfect Satoshi candidate, he has always unequivocally denied it. Furthermore, he put forward an ideological argument as to why he is not Satoshi:
“And so a good deal of our focus went into the ability to perpetually renew the integrity of the record over time so that the records will last for decades if not centuries, and we’ll survive quantum resistant computing and all of those things. And that’s something that Satoshi gave no attention to whatsoever.”
Although he says that he does not know the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, he ruled out Craig Wright:
“I do not think it’s Craig Wright, let’s put it that way.”
Stornetta believes that we should try to understand Satoshi’s vision for Bitcoin in order to understand how to move forward. Also, he is of the opinion that Bitcoin is rather art, than science:
“I am of the camp that believes that what was done with Bitcoin was surely a work of genius. But it’s more like a work of art, a work of engineering art that opens the door to a number of possibilities but is in no sense the final or best solution that can be built.”
Although Stornetta may not be Satoshi Nakamoto, his work was foundational to Bitcoin and the entire cryptocurrency field.