Craig Steven Wright, a computer scientist with a doctorate in theology from Queensland, Australia, claimed today (May 2) to be the inventor of bitcoin, the controversial digital currency with the mysterious backstory.
In a personal blog post, Wright ties his reluctance to be identified as the man who made bitcoin, known only as “Satoshi Nakamoto,” to Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre turned down the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1964 by saying, “If I sign myself Jean-Paul Sartre it is not the same thing as if I sign myself Jean-Paul Sartre, Nobel Prizewinner.”
Wright writes: “If I sign Craig Wright, it is not the same as if I sign Craig Wright, Satoshi,” followed by a digital signature associated with Nakamoto. He then goes on to express his gratitude to…
“…those that have supported the bitcoin project from its inception—too many names to list. You have dedicated vast swathes of your time, committed your gifts, sacrificed relationships and REM sleep for years to an open source project that could have come to nothing.”
Wright also gave interviews to GQ, the Economist, and the BBC before his post was published on the agreement they’d hold them until it was. He told the Economist ”I’m not seeking publicity, but want to set the record straight,” and the BBC “I don’t want money. I don’t want fame. I don’t want adoration. I just want to be left alone.”
This isn’t the first time that Wright has been connected to bitcoin’s invention, but his online confession and interviews have not exactly cleared up doubts about whether he’s actually the inventor. In December, just after Wired magazine identified “nobody” Wright as the likely inventor of bitcoin, Australian authorities raided his home in the Sydney suburbs.
Vetting Wright’s claim is complicated because no one ever met Nakamoto in person, and many of the digital elements that could identify him could be faked or stolen. The subject confounds even experienced tech journalists and bitcoin enthusiasts.
As the Economist confusedly observes at one point in its very long article that attempts to clear the air, “When interviewed in person, Mr Wright was often hard to follow, but he clearly seemed to know what he was talking about.” The magazine concludes “We are not so sure” that he is the mythical creator.
The BBC, on the other hand, is positive, saying:
Mr Wright has provided technical proof to back up his claim using coins known to be owned by Bitcoin’s creator. Prominent members of the Bitcoin community and its core development team have also confirmed Mr Wright’s claim.
As is the former head of the Bitcoin Foundation, who said in a blog post:
According to me, the proof is conclusive and I have no doubt that Craig Steven Wright is the person behind the Bitcoin technology, Nakamoto consensus, and the Satoshi Nakamoto name.
Still, many questions remain. Documents and interviews with Wright that naysayers used earlier to build a case that he was not the founder of bitcoin have been scrubbed from the internet. Wired magazine concluded days after its article identifying Wright as Nakamoto last year that he was a “brilliant hoaxer who very badly wants us to believe” he invented bitcoin. It may still be right.