Bitcoin maximalists can’t accept that Dr. Craig Wright is Satoshi Nakamoto because he fails to embody the mythologies these maxis adopted during the Bitcoin creator’s absence from the scene.
The blockbuster civil trial currently wrapping up in a Florida federal court has Dr. Wright defending himself against Ira Kleiman, the brother of Wright’s late friend and colleague Dave Kleiman. Ira claims Dave helped Wright create Bitcoin and thus Ira believes that Dave’s estate is entitled to half of any BTC tokens the pair may have created prior to Dave’s untimely death in 2013.
Wright has publicly acknowledged his identity as Satoshi, author of the 2008 Bitcoin white paper, since he was doxed nearly six years ago by Wired and Gizmodo (with, as Wright maintains, the apparent help of documents provided by Ira Kleiman). The belief that Wright is Satoshi is pivotal to Ira’s lawsuit, putting both sides of this legal dispute on the same side of the great debate over Satoshi’s real-world identity.
Mainstream media reporting on this consensus has triggered many BTC maxis, who vent on social media that the general public shouldn’t be told that there’s any link between Wright and Satoshi. (The fear is that individuals might feel compelled to investigate Wright’s BSV protocol which, unlike BTC, offers unlimited scaling and ultra-low transaction fees and can therefore serve as the ‘peer-to-peer electronic cash system’ described in the Bitcoin white paper.)
Even pro-BTC sites such CoinDesk weren’t spared these attacks; the site was apparently forced to revise an article that claimed the trial would decide the fate of Satoshi’s fabled 1.1 million BTC reserve after Alan Silbert—brother of Digital Currency Group founder Barry Silbert—publicly lambasted CoinDesk on Twitter, saying “this article should have never seen the light of day.”
What’s my motivation in this scene?
Ever since Wright’s outing six years ago, BTC maxis have accused him of constantly moving the goalposts that might confirm his Satoshi claims. Chief among the maxis’ complaints is Wright’s failure/unwillingness to move any of the tokens derived from early block rewards that are assumed to belong to Satoshi. A simple read of his Bitcoin White Paper Chapter 10 on Privacy will show that identity is firewalled and that possession of keys do not prove ownership. Wright maintains that possession of private keys to certain coins is no more proof of ownership than stealing someone’s car keys and then declaring that their vehicle is your rightful property.
But the maxis’ own demands have been equally amorphous. This past weekend, Bitcoin Core developer Greg Maxwell publicly voiced a conspiracy theory that Wright had purchased the private keys to 15 early BTC addresses, which Wright would then use to respond to the maxis’ oft-stated maxim of “not your keys, not your Bitcoin.” So there really doesn’t appear to be any hurdle that Wright could clear that wouldn’t retroactively be raised ever higher by those that refuse to accept him as Satoshi.
The motivations behind the anti-Wright campaign of Maxwell and his ilk are clear enough: there’s quite literally no point to BTC’s further existence should BSV achieve mass adoption. If Wright is successful in getting BSV’s message out to the world, the BTC Ponzi bubble will burst, and down the drain goes the dreams of a new world order with maxis at the controls.
But there are a host of BTC maxi-minions who are far less financially invested than the Blockstreams or DCG’s of the world but who nonetheless embrace a strong anti-Wright sensibility. For these individuals, the enmity stems from a belief that Wright doesn’t match their expectations for who Satoshi is/was. And these expectations are primarily based on these acolytes projecting their own values onto the blank canvas created by Satoshi’s withdrawal from the public stage in 2011.
From the dawn of time, man has been making gods in his own image (and then claiming the reverse), apparently convinced that man occupies the summit of sentient development. Satoshi’s vanishing act allowed the nascent Bitcoin community to imagine him as various idealized versions of themselves writ large, and thus the emergence of someone who runs counter to those expectations threatens their (similarly exalted) sense of themselves.
So, Adam Back sees Satoshi as a cypherpunk, obsessed with keeping the state from sticking its nose where it doesn’t belong. Anarchists like Cøbra see Satoshi as the poster boy for burning the system to the ground, without much thought for what might replace it. And would-be alphas like Magnus Granath (aka Hodlonaut) simply want to upend the current financial structure with a new model in which individuals like himself are the new 1%.
Imagine their collective horror when Satoshi staged his involuntary second coming and they learned that his message on Bitcoin’s genesis block—“The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks”—was less a declaration of war against the financial old guard and more a simple timestamp marking the technology’s debut.
Imagine their horror growing when they discovered Satoshi had no interest in facilitating criminal transactions and proclaimed Bitcoin to be a means of allowing greater tracking of criminal activity. Imagine their consternation when Satoshi claimed Bitcoin wasn’t in a zero-sum cage-match with big banks but would work alongside the existing financial system. Imagine their indignance at discovering that Satoshi wasn’t interested in perpetually pumping the value of an inert token to make it easier for a handful of early adopters to buy Lamborghinis.
All the things they believed—and thus assumed Satoshi also believed—turned out to be views that Satoshi either didn’t fully support or outright opposed. Their reaction was both immediate and visceral, mirroring the early denial/anger stages of the grief cycle. This can’t be Satoshi. Satoshi thinks like I/we do. Ergo, this must be a fraud.
It’s around this time that the attempt to undermine Satoshi’s influence on all things Bitcoin began in earnest. The phrase “we are all Satoshi” was quickly memed into ubiquity in a bid to minimize the significance of Wright’s emergence, and with it the likelihood that Wright’s maxi-opposing views might gain widespread acceptance.
In good (flawed) company
Of course, there were others whose resistance to Wright’s charms was less predicated on naked financial self-interest and more based on their unwillingness to accept a highly combative, often foul-mouthed Aussie with a seriously quirky fashion sense as their new technological Lord and Savior.
When Wright’s defense team made their arguments in that Florida federal court, they brought on Dr. Ami Klin, the autism research specialist who diagnosed Wright with Autism/Asperger’s Syndrome. Klin noted that Wright, like many individuals on this spectrum, is a person with high intellect and dodgy social skills, prone to speaking with “supreme confidence” while lacking the capacity to “read cues for reciprocal communications.”
Wright is hardly the first individual to embody both high-level polymath capabilities with the table manners of Atilla the Hun. Steve Jobs was widely recognized as a genius, particularly by himself. Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell, who hired Jobs in 1974, once described Apple’s co-founder as “very often the smartest guy in the room, and he would let people know that.”
While Jobs was never formally diagnosed with autism, his behavior led many to conclude he met the criteria. Jobs’ long-time friend and colleague Jony Ive told biographer Walter Isaacson that Jobs had “this very childish ability to get really worked up about something” and when Jobs got frustrated, “his way to achieve catharsis is to hurt somebody.”
Other acknowledged geniuses showed no shortage of personality traits that tended to irk lesser mortals. Albert Einstein’s first wife left him after he handed her a draconian list of rules she had to obey, including her agreeing to “renounce all personal relations with me insofar as they are not completely necessary for social reasons.”
Historian Stephen Budiansky once declared that “the ideal cryptanalyst is Beethoven with the soul of an accountant; or vice versa.” Given the following anecdote, Wright’s neighbors are probably grateful his soul leans more toward the mathematical than the musical.
In 1820, police in the Austrian town of Wiener Neustadt arrested a dirty, disheveled vagrant who’d been roaming through town at night, peering into people’s windows and then scurrying away when spotted. Back at the station, the raving madman kept bellowing “I am Beethoven.” This went on long enough that the police summoned the local symphony conductor, who duly informed them that yes, that is Beethoven. The great composer was subsequently released, after which the police chief reportedly instructed his officers on the need to distinguish between simple madmen and geniuses in the throes of creation.
Warts and all
During one of this month’s livestreamed daily court action recaps, CoinGeek’s chief Bitcoin historian Kurt Wuckert Jr. responded to a viewer who asked him to relate “the best piece of evidence that you’ve seen to prove CSW is Satoshi.”
Wuckert’s response is worth hearing in its entirety, as he references “the descriptions of things to supposed experts that they had never heard of ever and Craig Wright explained them years before they could be proven to other people… It’s like asking someone about the intricacies of their childhood home, where they lived for 20 years, and only they can explain it.”
But Wuckert also addressed many of the potentially unflattering elements of Wright’s persona that the plaintiffs’ legal team did their best to amplify during the trial. “The actual gaffes and the litigiousness and the stuff that people don’t like [about] Craig… I don’t know. Maybe Satoshi Nakamoto did actually forge things … Maybe Satoshi Nakamoto lied to the Australian Tax Office. We don’t know these things. And it’s not a mutually exclusive thing that Satoshi Nakamoto is both the creator of Bitcoin and Craig Wright and maybe not a nice guy in some regards.”
And that’s the thing. Wright doesn’t have to measure up to someone’s idealized version of Satoshi. Regardless of his quirks and human frailties, he’s demonstrated an understanding of the technology that transcends that of his critics, and for that alone he deserves to be heard above their din.
This won’t stop many BTC maxis from labeling BSV a cult based on its adherents’ deep respect for Wright and his creations. But Wright and BSV aren’t indivisible. BSV backers may have a passionate devotion to the technology Wright unleashed upon the world, but that devotion—like the technology itself—will endure regardless of whether Wright is still on the scene.
But hey, so long as we’re talking about cults, bear in mind that BSV fans haven’t adopted the same type of shared identity markers like the BTC maxis who dutifully added identical ‘laser eyes’ to their social media avatars. Nor have BSV supporters developed a lexicon of pithy slogans such as “have fun staying poor” or “not gonna make it” that can be readily deployed against any heretic who dares challenge BTC’s articles of faith.
Regardless of how the jury decides in Kleiman v Wright, the BTC diehards will work overtime to paint it as a setback for Wright. They don’t really have any choice because, after stripping BTC of virtually all functionality besides “number go up,” disinformation is the only tool they have left. BTC may win the odd skirmish but it will ultimately lose this war because utility trumps perceived value every time, and BSV has utility in spades.
In the end, maybe the best way for BTC maxis to make their peace with Wright being Satoshi is to consider Tony Soprano’s reaction to his nephew Christopher questioning Tony’s decisions while lamenting that this has caused him to question his love for Tony: “What happens – I decide, not you. Now you don’t love me anymore, that breaks my heart but it’s too f**king bad. Because you don’t gotta love me, but you will respect me.”
Check out all of the CoinGeek special reports on the Kleiman v Wright YouTube playlist.
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