Genesis or bust: play your next card carefully

Thursday 05 May 2016

There’s only one piece of evidence that will pass muster, and the real Satoshi will find it easy to produce.

Given the apparently insatiable appetite for Satoshi-related speculation, this article assumes readers aren’t already fed up with the circus surrounding Craig Wright’s latest claims. Because this is the issue du jour and because there are certain irreducible realities about it, we’ll take one more stab at it. Because it is as simple as this.

By now a few things are clear, and a few more aren’t:

  • Wright claims to be Satoshi Nakamoto, bitcoin's creator.
  • He has convinced a couple of influential bitcoin devs, namely Gavin Andresen and Jon Matonis - though Gavin recently changed his blog entry and sought to distance himself from the process somewhat.
  • Wright has not yet provided public, cryptographically-verifiable evidence - despite the fact that such proof is possible.
  • He has provided large amounts of complex and obscure material that obfuscate the issue and have misled interested parties.
  • He has stated that he will move some early ‘Satoshi’ coins.

Cards

When you're in this deep, your next play had better be a really good one

The problem is this, or rather, these:

  • Wright has form: the ‘leaked’ evidence from last December constitutes an attempt to deceive (particularly the backdated PGP keys).
  • Wright has been involved since early in bitcoin - probably very early.

Thus the quandary is this:

  • Wright was one of the handful of people who formed the early bitcoin network.
  • He may have keys to some of the early blocks that he mined - perhaps even including 1 and 9, which apparently formed a vital strand of his proof to Andresen.
  • Signing messages with these keys or moving the coins in those blocks does not prove his identity. It might be convincing, if it were not for the previous deceptions. (There’s a moral here, kids. Don't lie. People stop trusting you if you do that.)

For what it’s worth, it seems entirely possible that Craig Wright was a part of Satoshi, assuming that Satoshi Nakamoto was a group of people, probably including Hal Finney and Dave Kleiman - both of whom have since died. Perhaps he interacted with Andresen and others online in the early days of bitcoin. Perhaps he mined a few of the first blocks and has keys to those transactions. Maybe we can credit his claim as 20-30% truthful, on the grounds that his work constituted 20-30% of the effort made by the group known as Satoshi.

But there is one block he cannot have mined: the Genesis Block. The coins in this block cannot be spent. If anyone has the keys to this block, it will be Satoshi. (If Wright has managed to gain the keys to this another way, well, that’s a bit deus ex machina - go down that route and you might as well argue he’s also gained the keys to those million-odd bitcoins that have been sat immobile on the blockchain for years. The point is that he can’t have legitimately gained the Genesis keys by mining and early involvement, only if he was bitcoin's creator.)

Thus the bar for proof is very high, for the wrong person, and very low, for the right one: sign a message with the private key to the Genesis Block

That’s all. It’s the only evidence required, and the only evidence that will be sufficient. For the real Satoshi, it’s a trivial matter. For an imposter, it’s an almost impossible burden of proof. After the ridiculous back-and-forth charade we’ve seen, of fabricated, faulty and misleading evidence, it’s time to put this to bed. Genesis or nothing.

Your move.


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