Friday, March 07, 2014

Newsweek: I'm not Satoshi, either

Today, Newsweek relaunched its magazine with a cover story outing a Dorian "Satoshi" Nakamoto as the creator of Bitcoin. The story is bogus. It cites zero evidence. It does cite many suspicious things that hint Dorian might be Satoshi -- but that level of evidence can apply to anybody, even me.

Of the list of people most likely to be Satoshi, I'm not even in the 10,000 most likely candidates. Yet, if you went looking, you'd find just as much evidence that I was the creator of Bitcoin. Pando Daily has a good list here enumerating all the pieces of evidence cited in the story. I thought I'd create a similar list outing me, to show how easily it can be done.

1. I've got unusual ties to Japan
My brother lives in Japan. I've been visiting Japan about once a year for the past 15 years. This would explain selecting a Japanese pseudonym. This is an unusually strong connection to Japanese names you wouldn't find with most nerds.

2. My work history syncs up
I quit my job and became an independent consultant slightly more than 2 years before Bitcoin was released -- almost exactly how long it would've taken to create Bitcoin. That's a suspiciously close match.

3. I've been a cybersecurity expert since the 1990s
I have a long history with the building blocks of Bitcoin, not only the crypto, but also things like writing code and network protocols.

4. I'm a rabid libertarian
It's vogue for geeks to call themselves "Libertarian", but that's more so out of dissatisfaction with the two main Parties than real enthusiasm for libertarian principles. I, on the other hand, am hard-core.

5. My family would say I'm capable
If Newsweek were to call up my family, they'd confirm that I'm capable of Bitcoin. What I do is magic to them, so they'd confirm pretty much anything. They would assume any claim Newsweek was making might be true.

6. My family would say I'm weird and private
My family would confirm that while intelligent, that I'm moody, weird, and obsessively private. For example, I paid the $500 deposit on my cellphone so that I wouldn't have to give them my social security number. My social security number isn't tied to anything (not my house, phone, car, cable, power, etc.) that isn't required by law. I'm a little annoyed that Obamacare now forces me to link my identity with health care.

7. Some other reasons
And there are a couple other reasons I don't want to discuss, because as noted above, I'm private. But if Newsweek came looking, they'd find them convincing evidence.

What I'm trying to show here is that the Newsweek article is just an example of "confirmation bias". Once they decided that Dorian was Satoshi, they went looking for pieces that would confirm this. You can apply the same method to me, and suddenly I start looking like Satoshi. That I have such a strong tie to Japan, for example, starts to loom important, but it's not. My business partner Dave is mostly American Indian, but is partially Japanese. If you him, you might find he's got an ancestor named "Satoshi" and another named "Nakamoto". But that's meaningless, both are common Japanese names.

Journalists are supposed to know this. They are supposed to be trained in the difference between actual evidence and crap like this. Such details are good reasons to go hunting for a story, to go look for real evidence, but they doesn't justify a story on its own. Sure, it's enough for blog post maybe, but it's nowhere near what is required for the cover story of a major magazine.

It seems that journalistic standards have been falling for the past few years. It'll be interesting to see if the industry will hold Newsweek accountable for this story.

1 comment:

martijn said...

I thought I would be a very likely candidate to be Satoshi Nakamoto. I mean, I have no ties with Japan, so I would have chosen a Japanese name to hide my tracks. I am not more private than you'd expect from someone working in IT security. Which makes sense: it is well known that being extremely private or secretive makes you suspect. My family would happily confirm I am a little weird, but they'd never suspect me of doing something like inventing bitcoin. Again, that's exactly how Satoshi Nakamoto would make sure he'd hide his tracks even from his family. And while inventing bitcoin, I was leading a pretty ordinary life. Of course, if I wasn't, I'd have long been discovered as having invented bitcoin.

All I need to do is to convince my Bitcoin wallet I am indeed Satoshi Nakamoto.