Who the Heck Is Nick Szabo and Is He the Real Father of Bitcoin?
If only Bitcoin could be paternity tested. Then we would know for sure if Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto really is its father. Or if it’s Three Men and a Bitcoin, a.k.a. Vladimir Oksman, Charles Bry and Neil King. Or the government. Or whomever.
Or, now, if it’s Nick Szabo, the newest alleged founder flavor of the week.
Forensic linguistics researchers at Aston University in Birmingham, England, have more than a hunch that Szabo, the genius academic who invented the Bitcoin precursor Bit Gold, could be the one -- the mystery scribe of the 2008 whitepaper that led to the birth of Bitcoin, the digital currency perpetually on the tips of techie tongues.
A team of 40 final-year students at the university’s Centre for Forensic Linguistics conducted a deepdive forensic linguistics study of Szabo’s blog posts and academic writings, along with those of 11 other suspected Bitcoin creators. They closely compared the subjects’ writings to Nakamoto’s landmark whitepaper and concluded that Szabo is most likely its author.
“The number of linguistic similarities between Szabo’s writing and the Bitcoin paper is uncanny,” said the Aston students’ professor Dr. Jack Grieve in an announcement about “Project Bitcoin.” “None of the other possible authors were anywhere near as good of a match,” he said. “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.”
The linguistic parallels the researchers highlighted between Nakamoto and Szabo boil down to the use of some fairly common simple phrases, like “chain of,” “trusted third parties,” “for our purposes,” “need for,” “still,” “of course,” “as long as,” “such as,” and “only,” along with various punctuation patterns.
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We’re not linguistics experts, not even close, but it seems a bit like the student sleuths were grasping at some pretty flimsy straws, just like everyone else trying to figure out who the true father of Bitcoin is.
Like Nakamoto, Szabo reportedly denies that he’s the mastermind behind Bitcoin. Smart move. We wouldn’t want to be chased by car and on foot through the streets of L.A. by a screaming mob of crypto-razzi either.
Reporters are probably outside Szabo’s door right now, if they haven’t already paid him a visit or a few before.
A researcher who goes by the name of Skye Grey argued on his blog on Dec. 1 last year that “Satoshi is Szabo himself.” Four days later Grey told TechCrunch editor John Biggs that he was “not certain it’s Nick Szabo” after all. He then laid out several “independent pieces of evidence” that he said “point” in Szabo’s direction.
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It’s been said by several journalists and Bitcoin creator investigators that Szabo was a law professor at George Washington University. However, as pointed out by The Wall Street Journal today, officials at the university say they have “no records of his ever working there in that capacity.” Szabo did, however, graduate from the university in 2006 with a law degree.
Bitcoin brain or not, whoever Nick Szabo is, everyone knows his name now.