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Bitcoin's mysterious creator, revealed

Posting in Technology

 

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What's clear about Bitcoin is that it's changing the way we see finance. The digital currency operates under no central authority or banks so fees are minimal and transactions can be made efficiently from anywhere in the world. 

What hasn't been as clear is just how secure the crypto-currency is after the world's largest Bitcoin trading post, Mt. Gox, shut down last month and what that means for its future. Also, who came up with this disruptive, $8 billion (at current market rates) currency model?

Newsweek has reason to believe it has tracked him down.

His name is Satoshi Nakamoto and he's basically the foil to Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk. He lives in California and drives a Toyota Corolla and, as Leah McGrath Goodman -- the journalist behind the Newsweek cover story -- describes him, "a 64-year-old Japanese-American man whose name really is Satoshi Nakamoto [not a pseudonym]. He is someone with a penchant for collecting model trains and a career shrouded in secrecy, having done classified work for major corporations and the U.S. military."

But while Goodman's story is a fascinating read about how she tracked down the man behind the important digital currency -- even former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke thinks Bitcoin "may hold long-term promise" -- we still don't know much about him.  

The only time in the story we hear from Nakamoto is when Goodman goes to his house. He calls the cops. When they show up she says he wants to talk about Bitcoin. Here's his response:

"I am no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it," he says, dismissing all further queries with a swat of his left hand. "It's been turned over to other people. They are in charge of it now. I no longer have any connection."

Throughout the piece we get interesting bits of detail about Nakamoto from secondary sources. His brother calls him both a "brilliant man" and an "asshole." Bitcoin's chief scientist, Gavin Andresen, said that while he was working on coding for Bitcoin he interacted with Nakamoto only on email or the Bitcointalk forum. They never spoke on the phone and Nakamoto never offered up any personal information. His ex-wife says he "did not talk much about his work." But Goodman does manage to dig up some personal information about Nakamoto's upbringing. 

It's not a lot. But it could be the most we ever learn about the "brilliant man" responsible for what could turn out to be one of the most important inventions of the 21st century.

Read the full Newsweek article.

UPDATES: It looks like we were wrong about knowing more about the man Newsweek called the founder of Bitcoin. Nakamoto sat down for a two-hour interview with the Associated Press, saying he has "nothing to do with" Bitcoin. He also said Newsweek misunderstood his quote when he "I am no longer involved in that." Newsweek and the reporter for the story say they stand behind the story. More here

Whatever the truth may be, Wall Street Journal points out that the potential revelation had little impact on the digital currency's value. And, if the Newsweek article is true, it could add value to the currency in the long-run. 

And if you're in Japan don't call Bitcoin a "currency" anymore.

Photo: Flickr/zcopley

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— By on March 6, 2014, 10:20 AM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure