Satoshi Nakamoto, bitcoin’s inventor, has not made any public statements that reveal his political leanings, but in a rare private e-mail, Nakamoto says “I don’t mean to sound like a socialist, I don’t care if wealth is concentrated.”
That statement was made to Laszlo, the person who bought a pizza with 10,000 bitcoin exactly 8 years ago. Nathaniel Popper of NYT was able to get hold of the private exchange.
The context of the exchange between Laszlo and Nakamoto is regarding a “discovery” Laszlo made that allowed him to mine with GPU processors.
As all now know, bitcoin has a fixed supply of currently 12.5 btc every 10 minutes. Back then it was 50 btc, with the supply so halved every 4 years.
That block reward every 10 minutes is distributed based on how much computer power one has, thus how quickly they can solve the pointless math puzzles of bitcoin mining.
With everyone back then using CPUs, the GPU allowed Laszlo to go from 50 btc a day to 50 btc per hour. He tells Nakamoto of the above in April 2010. We quote below in full Nakamoto’s reply:
“A big attraction to new users is that anyone with a computer can generate some free coins. When there are 5000 users, that incentive may fade, but for now it’s still true.
GPUs would prematurely limit the incentive to only those with high end GPU hardware. It’s inevitable that GPU compute clusters will eventually hog all the generated coins, but I don’t want to hasten that day. If the difficulty gets really high, that increases the value of each coin in a way since the supply becomes more limited. The supply is the same: 50 coins every 10 minutes.
But GPUs are much less evenly distributed, so the generated coins only go towards rewarding 20% of the people for joining the network instead of 100%.
I don’t mean to sound like a socialist, I don’t care if wealth is concentrated, but for now, we get more growth by giving that money to 100% of the people than giving it to 20%. Also, the longer we can delay the GPU arms race, the more mature the OpenCL libraries get, and the more people will have OpenCL compatible video cards. If we see from the difficulty factor that someone is using too much GPU, we can certainly pick this OpenCL stuff up again then. Maybe my effort to maintain GPU innocence is running out of time. It’s worked out so far.”
There are many ways to interpret the above. First, Nakamoto is estimated to have mined around a million bitcoins, which might suggest he had a big CPU cluster. A cynic thus might say Nakamoto is just trying to protect his own CPU mining power.
At the other end, “I don’t mean to sound like a socialist” doesn’t necessarily mean he is not a socialist. He could very well be trying to pre-empt, or he could be using that as a persuasion tactic.
It is difficult, however, to get away from “I don’t care if wealth is concentrated.” That’s if we assume he is being fully honest because that too can be just a persuasion tactic.
We say the above because the substance of Nakamoto’s statement does sound pretty socialist and he has previously referred to the cost of production as a floor for bitcoin’s price. That sound’s like the labor theory of value. Yet, supply and demand is econ 101 with the cost of production affecting supply.
So the most reasonable and logical interpretation might be to take Nakamoto’s words at face value and conclude that his leanings are or were at least centre-right.
The genesis block of course refers to The Times. That’s a British centre right paper favored by, among others, law students because they have a legal section once a week.
In 2009, The Times was the only paper you could choose if you were conservative and leaned to the right. Universities, for example, would recommend one of three papers so that students can increase their literacy skills. That being the Guardian, the Independent, and the Times. The former two are pretty left, while the Times is/was centre ground but with a slight leaning to the right. Today we’d add the Telegraph as a choice, but not really in 2009-10.
The point of that analysis is to suggest Nakamoto might have been British. Yet the Times, back then, was freely available to anyone with an internet access. Nakamoto, therefore, could have easily been European with perhaps some affinity for British culture or, as might be the case, unable to really make a distinction between a British paper and an American paper.
However, on the 3rd of January 2009 you would think he was in Britain. That’s because you can’t really see online the Time’s front-page, you would need a hardcopy. Yet he could have easily been watching or pirating Newsnight, which usually ends by showing the front-pages of tomorrow’s papers, or he was subscribed to the Times by post.
The only thing, therefore, we can say with some confidence, and that confidence is a very weak confidence, is that Nakamoto, at least the individual that spoke publicly and replied to the email address, is/was one individual, rather than a group.
He may well have been the leader of sorts of a team, but talking of socialism or concentration of wealth does sound like a personal, individual, opinion.
So then, if we had to bet, Nakamoto is or was perhaps British or maybe European, at least of a centre-right leaning, and one individual genius.
We do find that last conclusion a bit difficult. That’s because even if it was one individual that ended up designing and coding bitcoin, there would have been some influence, probably by a university team or class, although maybe he did do it all through online self-study.
We also find the conclusion of British or European unsatisfactory, primarily because you’d think it would have been American, although British, American, there isn’t really much difference.
Finally, centre-right might be an easier bet, but the intention of the design was radical equality of one CPU one vote, and he would have liked to keep that for as long as possible as revealed in the email.
So Nakamoto is difficult to pinpoint, but reality perhaps matters less than certainty sometimes. So our Nakamoto from now on will be a centre-right Brit individual genius.