Nick Szabo, The Real Satoshi Nakamoto: The Definitive Case Study

Nick Szabo with Satoshi Nakamoto statue

The birth of Bitcoin

During the 2008 financial crisis, a visionary computer scientist driven by an ambition to challenge central banks invented Bitcoin, the world's first peer-to-peer digital cash system utilizing asymmetric cryptography. Bitcoin's enigmatic creator shrouded himself in the pseudonym "Satoshi Nakamoto" to maintain anonymity. Embracing a profound commitment to the principles of decentralization, Satoshi left the project in 2011.

My thorough research on Satoshi's identity points overwhelmingly to renowned computer scientist Nick Szabo, the inventor of smart contracts and Bitcoin's precursor, Bit gold. I present to you the definitive case study of Satoshi Nakamoto.

Nick Szabo speaking at smart contracts conference
Szabo giving a keynote speech at the 2016 Smart Contracts Symposium

Who is Nick Szabo?

One of the most influential computer scientists of all time, Nick Szabo is an American polymath with expertise in economics, libertarianism, cryptography, programming, law, and science. Szabo's friend, Donald McIntyre, describes Szabo as a "quiet master of cryptocurrency" and that his works are:

"comparable to Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr, Born, and Schrödinger."

In 1989, Szabo earned a bachelor's degree in computer science at the University of Washington, then later returned to California (his birthplace), becoming more involved in extropianism (futurology). Along with fellow extropians Wei Dai and Hal Finney, he joined the cypherpunk movement in the early 1990s due to the overlapping libertarian ideas with extropianism.

Cypherpunks are computer programmers who put the power of privacy and secure communication back into the hands of the public through open source software. A leading voice in the movement, Szabo played a crucial role in hosting real life cypherpunk gatherings alongside Hal Finney, whose early involvement helped shape Bitcoin's future direction.

Notably, Szabo worked at a rocket propulsion laboratory, demonstrating his strong math skills. In 2006, Szabo graduated from George Washington Law School with a Juris Doctor. For his many contributions to computer science, Szabo was awarded an honorary doctorate and professorship from Francisco Marroquín University.

The most ambitious cypherpunk

Szabo has stated on many occasions that he was inspired by David Chaum, the widely recognized inventor of digital cash, and Tim May, a cypherpunk, who in 1988, wrote the "Crypto Anarchist Manifesto," outlining the movement's goals. In 1995, Szabo began working as a consultant for Digicash, the first digital cash attempt started by none other than David Chaum.

Published prior to the creation of Bitcoin, Szabo's groundbreaking paper, "Trusted Third Parties are Security Holes," laid out the foundational arguments behind distributed networks functioning without trusted intermediaries. This influential work continues to shape the thinking of Bitcoin advocates across the world.

Out of all Satoshi candidates, Nick Szabo and Hal Finney were the only cypherpunks motivated enough to continue working on serious digital cash designs in the 2000s after Digicash's bankruptcy. Namely, they were Bit gold and its variant (more on this later).

Bit gold is the predecessor of Bitcoin

Nick Szabo invented Bit gold in 1998, a sketch for a decentralized cryptocurrency using "bit gold miners" to solve "complex mathematical puzzles." It used Adam Back's Hashcash proof-of-work algorithm, which is present in Bitcoin. Importantly, Szabo refers to Bit gold as Bitcoin's "predecessor design."

Bit gold was first released on a private email list Szabo started called "Libtech," where Hal Finney, Wei Dai, as well as economists George Selgin and Larry White were present. This is also where Wei Dai released his B-Money proposal. Notably, Dai went to the same university as Szabo. Throughout the years, Szabo frequently described all four men as inspirations for his continued work on Bit gold.

Szabo has an impressive blog known as Unenumerated, where he voices his opinion about cryptography, true libertarian ideals, history, law, and science. He decided to publish Bit gold in 2005 after Hal Finney encouraged him to.

In a 2005 blog post, "Antiques, Time, Gold and Bit gold," Szabo quintessentially stated:

"There are some problems involved with implementing unforgeable costliness on a computer. If such problems can be overcome, we can achieve bit gold. This would be the first online currency based on highly distributed trust and unforgeable costliness rather than trust in a single entity and traditional accounting controls. Hal Finney has implemented a variant of bit gold based on a tamper-evident computer plug-in card, for which remote users can verify what code is running on the card."

This passage shows that Szabo as early as 2005 believed his Bit gold design was going to be the first online currency. In addition, Szabo described Hal Finney's variant of Bit gold, Reusable Proofs of Work (RPOW) as the "world's first implemented cryptocurrency." When you examine the ideas of both men, it becomes clear that Bitcoin was heavily influenced by both designs.

In a largely unknown Bit gold draft, Szabo passionately stated:

"Bit gold, even more so than precious metals, will become a hedge and safe haven for preserving value in the face of credit and political exposures."

Furthermore, in Szabo's 2011 blog post, "Bitcoin What Took Ye So Long," he equates the early ideas of Bitcoin to Bit gold:

"The short answer about why [Bitcoin] took so long is that the bit gold/Bitcoin ideas were nowhere remotely close to being as obvious [as] gwern suggests."

For context, Gwern is another Satoshi researcher. The timing of Szabo's blog post is remarkable; May 2011 was the same month Satoshi sent has last emails to core developers. Nathaniel Popper, a former New York Times journalist, described this anomaly in an extensive 2015 article about Szabo being the likeliest Satoshi candidate:

"Mr. Szabo first made brief mention of Bitcoin on his blog in mid-2009, and in 2011, when the currency was still struggling to gain traction, he wrote about it again at greater length, noting the similarity between bit gold and Bitcoin.... May 2011 was also the last time Satoshi communicated privately with other Bitcoin contributors. In an email that month to Martti Malmi, one of the earliest participants, Satoshi wrote, “I’ve moved on to other things and probably won’t be around in the future.”

Szabo asked for Bit gold coding contributors in 2008, 6 months before the Bitcoin whitepaper

In the months leading up to the public release of Bitcoin, Szabo penned a blog post titled "Bit gold Markets" where he clarified aspects of the design and possible improvements. But, most importantly, he stated in the comments:

"I suspect this is all obscure enough that (a) it may require most people to sit down and work it out for themselves carefully before it can be well understood, and (b) it would greatly benefit from a demonstration, an experimental market (with e.g. a trusted third party substituted for the complex security that would be needed for a real system). Anybody want to help me code one up?"

6 months later, the Bitcoin whitepaper was released. The fact that Szabo was asking for coding contributors on Bit gold shows it was a live project relatively close to Bitcoin's inception. Based on the gaping similarities with Bitcoin, it's a reasonable assumption this goes beyond coincidence.

Bit gold was the early draft of Bitcoin

It is highly unlikely that Satoshi (or any other inventor) wouldn't have an early draft. The early draft of Bitcoin was Bit gold based on Szabo's unique expertise/timing, as well as remarkable similarities like the highly similar names, distributed database, and timestamped PoW hash chain. Even the basic vocabulary terms are the same; Szabo used "bit gold miners" and "chain of digital signatures" before Satoshi's existence.

There is clear evidence that Szabo was the most motivated cypherpunk to continue working on an ecash design through the 2000s (as previously explained). However, Bit gold underwent significant improvements, which Szabo summarized in the same month Satoshi left the project.

Szabo views Bit gold as the predecessor to Bitcoin for many reasons. Although, a key problem with Bit gold was the PoW solutions being the actual currency, and not used for securing the protocol, meaning it lacked Sybil resistance. This happens to be one of the most crucial evolutions in the Bitcoin design. The other key difference is that Bit gold aimed for high levels of privacy, whereas Bitcoin prioritizes other factors over privacy.

But, it is clear that over time, Szabo continuously improved the design of Bit gold.

Daniel Nagy is a cryptographer who frequently commented on Szabo's blog, and he published an ecash design in 2007 featuring reduced privacy features, but high ease of use. Szabo realized in a August 2007 blog post that Nagy's privacy model would likely be the most successful as opposed to the initial sketch of Bit gold featuring high levels of privacy. Szabo's description is highly similar to Bitcoin's privacy model:

"Thus, the main advantage of Nagy's scheme, which may or may not make up for its reduced privacy features, comes from the ability to use it without having to install any extra software at all -- to just, for example, cut and paste the cash from an e-mail where you received it from one person to an e-mail where you pay it to another. Your word processor can be your wallet. If this is an important use-case, then Nagian cash may succeed where Chaumian cash failed."

After a user asked in 2010 when Bitcoin's production began, Satoshi admitted that he started in 2007 and had a previous Bitcoin-like system with components requiring trust that he wanted to remove:

"Since 2007.  At some point I became convinced there was a way to do this without any trust required at all and couldn't resist to keep thinking about it.  Much more of the work was designing than coding. Fortunately, so far all the issues raised have been things I previously considered and planned for."

6 months before the whitepaper, Szabo indicated the same notion expressed by Satoshi regarding trust when discussing possible Bit gold improvements:

Byrne (blog commenter): "Why do the puzzling at all, rather than issuing a fixed amount of currency inflated at a predictable rate, with unique identifiers for each unit of currency?"

Szabo: "This is an interesting idea, something like the idea that the Fed should follow a simple algorithm rather than trying to outguess markets. But the real question for beating bit gold is how do we do this without having to put full trust in third parties? If we can figure that out, we've come up with something better than bit gold. ("We" as usual on this blog being just whoever wants to explore the possibility, not "the government" :-)"

Crucially, Szabo mentioned that someone should implement a better version of Bit gold. There were seemingly no other qualified individuals as motivated to implement P2P ecash as Szabo at the time. An interview that Szabo did with podcast host Peter McCormack further supports that Bit gold is Bitcoin's early draft. When McCormack asked:

"So what happened with Bit gold? Because you never got to coding, right? What happened?"

Szabo replied:

"That's part of it, is that it was certainly a way out there, fringe idea at the time I was working on it and there was only a handful of people in the world I can talk to about it that even have any clue what I was talking about."

Those "handful of people in the world" sound very much like Adam Back, Wei Dai, and Hal Finney, who exchanged the earliest emails with Satoshi. More importantly, it's clear that the only thing holding Szabo back in 2008 from making his idea a success was a group of core developers to help him.

Furthermore, many don't know that Szabo invented a primitive version of the blockchain in 1998. In Bit gold, the title registry was Szabo's design for a decentralized database with shared ownership records using public key cryptography. It is the same database described in Szabo's exemplary paper "Secure Property Titles Without Ownership Authority."

Szabo further described Bit gold's database in a comment on his "Bit gold Markets" blog post 6 months before the Bitcoin whitepaper; stressing its open source nature like Satoshi did with Bitcoin many times:

"The entire value chain from puzzle to solution, and all transfers of title, are available for all bit gold and can be audited by anybody at any time."

"Value chain" is noticeably similar to terms Satoshi used like "time chain" and "block chain." Terms Satoshi used like "chain of digital signatures" also appear in this blog post. In fact, Szabo stated in the same month Satoshi left the project how his paper on secure property titles was crucial for the invention of Bitcoin:

"Only a few people had read of the bit gold ideas, which although I came up with them in 1998 (at the same time and on the same private mailing list where Dai was coming up with b-money -- it's a long story) were mostly not described in public until 2005, although various pieces of it I described earlier, for example the crucial Byzantine-replicated chain-of-signed-transactions part of it which I generalized into what I call secure property titles."

The similarities with Bitcoin's blockchain are clearly noticeable. In a 2018 piece titled "The Genesis Files: With Bit Gold, Szabo Was Inches Away From Inventing Bitcoin," Bitcoin Magazine writer Aaron van Wirdum astutely summarized Bit gold's database:

"Indeed, it's not difficult to see Bit Gold as an early draft of Bitcoin. Apart from the shared database of ownership records based on public-key cryptography, the chain of proof-of-work hashes has an eerie resemblance to Bitcoin's blockchain. And, of course, the names Bit Gold and Bitcoin are not too far apart either."

Bitcoin whitepaper reference section

Satoshi oddly didn't cite Bit gold in the whitepaper

The Bitcoin whitepaper is a magnificent work of computer science. Whoever wrote the paper was certainly familiar with the cypherpunk movement and Bit gold. After all, Bit gold describes miners solving complex proof-of-work puzzles that are timestamped in a decentralized database. Thus, this makes Bit gold far closer to the design of Bitcoin than B-Money.

Given Szabo is a top cypherpunk and wrote Bit gold, it's odd, to say the least, that Satoshi would not cite Bit gold in the whitepaper; unless it was Szabo. This is further supported by the fact that Satoshi was careful enough to give proper credit to Adam Back for Hashcash and Wei Dai for B-money; even emailing them to ask if the citations were correct. Satoshi seemingly tried to give credit to everyone but himself.

Satoshi avoided Bit gold's discussion for as long as possible

We already know Satoshi decided to name the project closely after Bit gold, but didn't cite it in the whitepaper. As it turns out, Satoshi's behavior concerning Bit gold was a trend. He wanted to avoid discussion of the project until no longer possible.

When Hal Finney received the first Bitcoin transaction from Satoshi, it was clear that he took an immediate interest far beyond any other contributor. This is likely because the software had striking similarities to his friend's idea.

When discussing the network structure with Satoshi over email one week after the whitepaper, Finney stated:

"Nick Szabo wrote many years ago about what he called bit gold and this could be an implementation of that concept."

In Satoshi's response to Finney, he ignored the part about Bit gold. Satoshi clearly had the opportunity to give proper credit to Nick Szabo through an email, but strangely chose not to. In 2010, however, Satoshi backtracked immensely and admitted that Bitcoin was an implementation of B-Money and Bit gold:

Satoshi admitting Bitcoin was an implementation of Bit gold

Strikingly, the content of both messages is identical. Hal Finney called Bitcoin an "implementation" of Bit gold, which is the same term Satoshi used in 2010. In addition, Hal Finney linked to Szabo's Bit gold sketch in 2008, so Satoshi must have seen it. Crucially, in 2010, Satoshi linked to Bit gold as well.

It is clear by that point in 2010, Satoshi felt he could no longer leave out mention of Bit gold's influence. As it turns out, the 2010 message was a blunder by Satoshi. This is because Satoshi said Bitcoin was an implementation of Bit gold (and it wasn't cited in the whitepaper), so he clearly was aware of Bit gold long before the project. Had Satoshi never mentioned Bit gold, far less suspicion would have been placed on himself.

Bitcoin Genesis block

Uniquely identical personalities and skillsets

Satoshi was a highly motivated individual, given he coded a headline from a British newspaper into the Genesis block stating, "Chancellor on Brink of Second Bailout for Banks." Evidently, Satoshi's top concerns were insuring scarcity and a lack of central bank involvement. Like Satoshi, Szabo strongly desired to stifle inflation and remove the need for government in Bit gold:

"The problem, in a nutshell, is that our money currently depends on trust in a third party for its value. As many inflationary and hyperinflationary episodes during the 20th century demonstrated, this is not an ideal state of affairs."

Satoshi echoes Szabo in his first forum post:

"The root problem with conventional currency is all the trust that's required to make it work. The central bank must be trusted not to debase the currency, but the history of fiat currencies is full of breaches of that trust."

Szabo performed a comprehensive academic study on the history and ethnography of money titled "Shelling Out: The Origins of Money." This is precisely the type of work Satoshi would have undertaken before Bitcoin. Importantly, In Szabo's 2011 blog post (written in the same month Satoshi left), he suggested that his paper on the origins of money should be required reading for people debating the economics of Bitcoin:

"Gold couldn't work as money until it was already shiny or useful for electronics or something else besides money, they told me. (Do insurance services also have to start out useful for something else, maybe as power plants?) This common argument coming ironically from libertarians who misinterpreted Menger's account of the origin of money as being the only way it could arise (rather than an account of how it could arise) and, in the same way misapplying Mises' regression theorem. Even though I had rebutted these arguments in my study of the origins of money, which I humbly suggest should be should be required reading for anybody debating the economics of Bitcoin."

The similarities don't stop there; Satoshi discussed politics despite what many people think. He is a libertarian like Szabo, stating:

"It's very attractive to the libertarian viewpoint if we can explain [Bitcoin] properly."

In addition, Satoshi had experience in digital financial contracts:

"The design supports a tremendous variety of possible transaction types that I designed years ago. Escrow transactions, bonded contracts, third party arbitration, multi-party signature, etc.  If Bitcoin catches on in a big way, these are things we'll want to explore in the future, but they all had to be designed at the beginning to make sure they would be possible later."

These transaction types are often used in smart contracts, a concept where financial contracts can execute through code. Nick Szabo invented smart contracts in the 90s as previously noted.

Satoshi explaining thought process

As previously stated, Satoshi was strongly motivated by the idea of scarcity in designing Bitcoin, exactly like Szabo. Satoshi explained his thought process in the above 2009 email. Noticeably, in the Bit gold draft discussed earlier, Szabo emphasized Bit gold's scarcity when responding to a comment by Hal Finney on the design:

Nick Szabo emphasizing Bit gold's scarcity

What's more, Satoshi strongly supported the existence of altcoins in numerous writings, such as below:

Satoshi supporting altcoins

Strikingly, Szabo is one of the few Satoshi candidates who supports altcoins. One reason for this is that Szabo invented smart contracts, which are a great deal of altcoins.

Also, having studied the history of money in great detail, Szabo understands that scarce objects possessed the greatest amount of trust minimization as a medium of exchange throughout history. Many different types of scarce objects have been used as trust minimized money including shells, beads, precious metals, even huge stones!

Szabo's vision from the start was for this to be recreated in the digital world for the masses; different types of coins serving different purposes:

Nick Szabo supporting altcoins

Exceptionally similar writing and coding styles

Stylometry is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as "the statistical analysis of variations in literary style between one writer or genre and another." As such, there have been many studies comparing Satoshi to candidates like Szabo, Hal Finney and Adam Back. Consistently, Adam Back scores near the bottom, while Hal Finney scores near the top.

Fittingly, Nick Szabo is often shown as having the most similar writing mannerisms to Satoshi. A group of Aston University undergraduate stylometrists led by Professor Jack Grieve stated in a 2014 study of the whitepaper:

"The number of linguistic similarities between Szabo’s writing and the Bitcoin paper is uncanny, none of the other possible authors were anywhere near as good of a match. We are pretty confident that out of the list of people regularly referred to as possibilities, Nick Szabo is the main author of the paper, though we can’t rule out the possibility that others contributed."

While others potentially helped, the important part of the study was the conclusion that Szabo was the main author of the whitepaper. Regarding Satoshi's programming style, a researcher who compared the majority of the top candidates' code to Satoshi's found that Szabo was the only person to display noticeable similarities.

Later research has shown James Donald also shares this similarity. However, while still a stronger candidate than most, Donald famously spoke to Satoshi using his public identity, while there is no known correspondence between Szabo and Satoshi.

Szabo has such strong OPSEC skills that people thought his name was a pseudonym

When people began to speculate on the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, Nick Szabo was the first person suspected. By examining the principles of Occam's Razor, it's easy to understand why. Szabo's operation security (OPSEC) skills were so strong that people theorized in 2011 that he didn't exist, suggesting his name was a pseudonym for famous computer scientist John Nash.

Just like Satoshi, Szabo is an experienced user of pseudonyms. In 1993, while communicating on the cypherpunk mailing list, Szabo discussed his frequent use of pseudonyms:

"In my limited experience creating Internet pseudonyms, I've been quite distracted by the continual need to avoid leaving pointers to my True Name lying around -- excess mail to/from my True Name, shared files, common peculiarities (eg misspellings in written text), traceable  logins, etc.... The hazards are everywhere."

Furthermore, Szabo stated in a 2006 blog post:

"Another good use for pseudonyms [is] to stay alive."

There is evidence suggesting that Satoshi faked his British writing mannerisms for the purposes of OPSEC: Satoshi actually used British and American English nearly the same amount.

Researchers determined that Satoshi used British English highly erratically, and sometimes used it alongside American English within the same posts. Given Satoshi's many other precautions for avoiding detection, it is highly likely that his semantics were another red herring.

Hal Finney
The late Hal Finney

Satoshi had a deep respect for Hal Finney, Szabo's good friend

Satoshi Nakamoto sent the first Bitcoin transaction to Hal Finney. It is possible this may be simply be due to the fact Finney loved the idea. However, when you consider the broader picture, it is a markedly odd that Finney happened to be the second user of Bitcoin when he and Szabo were working on Bit gold-related ideas for years prior. When discussing the software with another individual on the Bitcoin forum, Finney stated:

"I'd like to hear some specific criticisms of the code. To me it looks like an impressive job, although I'd wish for more comments. Now I've mostly studied the init, main, script and a bit of net modules. This is some powerful machinery."

Satoshi replied:

"That means a lot coming from you, Hal.  Thanks."

This is notable because, while he still thanked other Bitcoin core developers, Satoshi never said anything along the lines of "coming from you," to anyone but Finney. The deep respect expressed by Satoshi implies he knew Finney before the creation of Bitcoin. Of course, this lines up flawlessly with Szabo's friendship with Finney.

"bit coin" appears in a comment on Szabo's blog post discussing Bit gold 6 months before the Bitcoin whitepaper

A user named "Eddie" used the term "bit coin" to refer to Bit gold multiple times in a comment on Szabo's important blog post "Bit gold Markets," which was written 6 months before the Bitcoin whitepaper:

Blog commenter Eddie calling Bit gold "bit coin"

It is unclear why Eddie suddenly used that crucial term while also combining "bitgold" and using "bit gold" too. A few possible answers are: they were typos or he thought it was a better name. Crucially, since this was Szabo's blog, it means he saw Eddie's comment 6 months before the name "Bitcoin" even existed under Satoshi's identity. Expectedly, Szabo never responded to the comment.

A Satoshi Easter egg about gold matches Szabo's reference in various speeches

Besides the fact that Bitcoin is an obvious attempt to mirror a scare commodity like gold in the digital world, cryptic references by Satoshi show that he was a gold bug. Satoshi listed his birthday on the P2P foundation forum as April 5th 1975. Well, April 5th 1933 is the day US President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 6102, which made it illegal for Americans to own gold. In 1975, the US government reversed this policy, allowing Americans to own gold again.

Unsurprisingly, Szabo mentions FDR's gold ban as a motivation for creating Bit gold in many speeches. One example is when Szabo spoke at a 2015 Ethereum developer conference.

Satoshi put virtual poker in the early code, which Szabo had an interest in

Previously, there have been no major attempts to trace the motivations behind Satoshi's original source code before he made changes and released Bitcoin to the public. The most notable change was a virtual poker game that Satoshi removed in the final version of the software.

Through my research, I discovered that Szabo was interested in decentralized internet video poker. In an October 1993 Cypherpunks email, Szabo stated:

"My own vision of cypherpunk evolution runs along the following lines... online markets: Internet video poker, election outcome markets, satellite track betting, etc."

Numerous hints by Szabo himself

Nick Szabo tends to stay away from the topic of Satoshi Nakamoto; but occasionally, despite some denials, (which you'd expect Satoshi to do), he reveals things that suggest he knows far more about Bitcoin's creation than he's stated. It's important to remember that there is nothing publicly tying Szabo to the development of Bitcoin.

When former NYT journalist Nathaniel Popper (previously mentioned) approached Szabo at a dinner party to probe his involvement in the creation of Bitcoin, Szabo told Popper:

"I mean, the reason people tag me is because you can go through secure property titles and bit gold — there are so many parallels between that and Bitcoin that you can’t find anywhere else."

Szabo's comments to Popper led former Gizmodo journalist Kate Knibbs to famously state in an article:

"Even Nick Szabo thinks that Nick Szabo is probably Satoshi Nakamoto."

More impressively, in Szabo's 2011 blog post extensively described above, he stated:

"Myself, Wei Dai, and Hal Finney were the only people I know of who liked the idea (or in Dai's case his related idea) enough to pursue it to any significant extent until Nakamoto (assuming Nakamoto is not really Finney or Dai). Only Finney (RPOW) and Nakamoto were motivated enough to actually implement such a scheme."

Szabo himself was among the only three people he listed to like the idea of a decentralized cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. Through his reference to RPOW as a variant of Bit gold, Szabo is hinting that he and Hal Finney were the only ones truly motivated enough to create Bitcoin.

Nick Szabo hints at creating Bitcoin on Twitter

On Twitter, when making a tweet about his "old cryptocurrency design called bit gold," one user asked:

"Then what is your new design?"

Szabo curiously responded with:

"Bit gold II"

Given the unique similarities of both projects, it's highly odd that Szabo would make this comment unless he was directly implying Bit gold was his first attempt and Bitcoin was his second.

Nick Szabo indicates Bitcoin's creation as the reason for Bit gold failing

When a Twitter user asked Szabo why Bit gold failed, Szabo responded by saying:

"It's much easier to run actual software than a design for software."

Szabo could have implied in his response that Satoshi improved significantly on his design (like he has in the past), but this time, he chose that very telling phrase. Finally, in a 2017 podcast interview with Tim Ferriss and Naval Ravikant, Szabo made a potential Freudian slip:

"When I designed Bitcoi.... gold."

A Freudian slip is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as "an unintentional error regarded as revealing subconscious feelings."

Crypto leaders seem to know that Satoshi is Szabo

The smartest individuals in the crypto space know a great deal about Nick Szabo since he invented smart contracts and Bit gold. But it goes much further than that. Computer scientists are individuals who typically place empirical evidence above other factors.

Charlie Lee stating Nick Szabo may be Satoshi

The creator of Litecoin, Charlie Lee, stated in 2017:

"Nick Szabo is the closest we have to Satoshi, if not Satoshi himself." 

As the creator of Litecoin (the most well known Bitcoin fork), Lee is highly familiar with the technology behind Bitcoin. Furthermore, Elon Musk, the co-founder of PayPal, famously stated in December 2021:

"[Nick Szabo] seems to be the one more responsible for the ideas behind Bitcoin than anyone else."

This statement by Musk is supported by the fact that Szabo has published over 20 academic papers on Bitcoin-related ideas, while most other candidates haven't scratched five.

The few arguments against Szabo don't hold up

When you look at the many internet discussions speculating on the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, Nick Szabo is consistently at the top. However, the most common argument against Szabo being Satoshi is that he simply is not a talented enough programmer. This notion is wrong, based on Szabo's web code. That code is not the work of an amateur, but of a seasoned expert.

In the aforementioned podcast episode, Szabo strongly denied the notion that he was an inexperienced programmer after Naval Ravikant questioned whether he was a talented enough programmer to code Bit gold:

Ravikant: "Nick, you only had the theory of Bit gold, you're not a serious enough programmer to create Bit gold."

Szabo: "Well, I am a serious programmer, but.... I..... didn't get around to programming Bit gold."

Also, you'll notice that Szabo, like other times, gave no concrete reason as to why he didn't code Bit gold, despite having the skills.

Author and journalist Dominic Frisby revealed in his book Bitcoin: The Future of Money? that Szabo said to him privately:

"C++ is a great language for implementing cryptographic primitives because of its efficiency."

Szabo's statement implies that he coded with C++ in the past. He would naturally hide his C++ code from the public due to obvious reasons pertaining to the Satoshi identity. Based on his analysis, Frisby concluded that Szabo was Satoshi.

Nick Szabo using double spaces

Another common argument is that Szabo stopped using double spaces in his online texts after the 90s, but this is a misconception. Szabo never used double spaces on his blog to begin with, which many people incorrectly think is the only public work he published after the 90s. The above 2005 email shows Szabo using double spaces while discussing how RPOW is an excellent working version of Bit gold.

The first Satoshi statue is in Hungary, and Szabo is Hungarian-American

Of all places in the world for the first Satoshi Nakamoto statue to be built, somehow Hungary was chosen. Szabo's father was a Hungarian who opposed the communist regime in the 50s and immigrated to America for freedom. This has inspired Szabo throughout his life, especially for his work on Bit gold to create a secure financial system untethered from government.

Given the strong evidence, it seems unlikely that the first Satoshi statue being placed in a country important to Szabo's life is a coincidence.


Bitcoin has revolutionized the global financial landscape, providing millions of previously unbanked individuals with access to trust minimized financial services. Satoshi Nakamoto was a visionary who did an incredible job at hiding his identity from the world. But, at the end of the day, he is still only human. The research in this article demonstrates that Satoshi revealed key personal details, despite common knowledge.

When people discuss the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, he is often referred to as a humble genius with a mastery of economics and computer programming. Nick Szabo matches the unique personality of Bitcoin's inventor better than any other known candidate. Based on the above research, I conclude that Nick Szabo is the real Satoshi Nakamoto.


* This article is updated with new information over time