Chapter 4 – The Devil is in the details
In the early days of bitcoin, many enthusiasts joined the bitcoin movement. They supported Satoshi’s vision and worked with him to develop the code and strategy.
Adam Back, Gavin Andresen, Jeff Garzik, Michael Marquardt (Theymos) and many others. During some of the interviews with media, they shared their work experience with Satoshi and some of the comments would help us to understand the character of Satoshi.
In fact I believe it was me who got Wei Dai’s b-money reference added to Satoshi’s bitcoin paper when he emailed me about hashcash back in 2008.
“Adam Back tells the story of Hashcash, PGP, David Chaum’s DigiCash and Stefan Brands’s electronic cash system, Bitcoin precursors such as Nick Szabo’s bit gold and Wei Dai’s B-Money, leading to Nakamoto’s Bitcoin white paper.”
Satoshi also communicated with Hal Finney extensively on cryptography email list and Hal was one of the early enthusiasts who joined the project at sourceforge. Hal mentioned about Nick Szabo in an email dated 7th November 2008.
Hal Finney hal at finney.org
Fri Nov 7 18:40:12 EST 2008
“I also do think that there is potential value in a form of unforgeable token whose production rate is predictable and can’t be influenced by corrupt parties. This would be more analogous to gold than to fiat currencies. Nick Szabo wrote many years ago about what he called “bit gold” and this could be an implementation of that concept. There have also been proposals for building light-weight anonymous payment schemes on top of heavy-weight non-anonymous systems, so Bitcoin could be leveraged to allow for anonymity even beyond the mechanisms discussed in the paper.”
Based on the email conversations between Adam and Hal, we can conclude that Satoshi was unaware of the happenings in the cryptography world. He learned about Wei Dai only after Adam’s referral. Satoshi learnt about Nick (Bitgold) and Zooko (MojoNation) from Hal and named them as references on bitcoin.org website. It simply implies he was NONE of the elite cryptographers. It is highly unlikely that Satoshi belong to Cypher Phunks as many of us thought.
Wayback Machine 2009 – See the references Wei Dai, Nick Szabo and Zooko Wilcox.
Wayback Machine bitcoin.org homepage
“I think he’s an academic, maybe a post-doc, maybe a professor who just doesn’t want the attention,” said Gavin Andresen in an interview at his one-man office in Amherst, Mass., last month. “And that’s why he’s proven anonymous.”
“I mean, Satoshi is a brilliant programmer but he also acts like a lone wolf. So some of the standard software practices, like writing unit tests for your code, well when we started there was not a unit test to be found.”
One quote from Nakamoto convinced Andresen that he, she, or the group, was not a cryptographer:
“Crypto may offer ‘key blinding.’ I did some research and it was obscure, but there may be something there. ‘Group signatures’ may be related.”
But key blinding and group signatures are concepts from Crypto 101.
That’s not to say that Bitcoin was any less ingenious. “Satoshi was a brilliant programmer,” Andresen said. “But he didn’t have a deep understanding of all the cutting edge crypto research that’s going on.”
There was also a lot of talk back then about digital cash and whether there was a way to pay for things that doesn’t require you to trust a government or central authority. They never quite figured that part out. So all the ideas were there, but until Satoshi Nakamoto had this brilliant idea of how to solve the trust problem, it never really took off.
But in spite of being an excellent architect and designer, Satoshi’s coding practices were unconventional, says Garzik, adding that the original version of Bitcoin was Windows only, not very portable and “a jumble of source code” with several half-finished projects.
“He was the oracle to which we would go for questions about the system, but he rarely followed standard engineering practices, like writing unit or stress tests or any of the standard qualitative analysis that we’d perform on software,” Garzik recalls. “Several things had to be disabled almost immediately upon public release of Bitcoin because they were obviously exploitable.”
Michael Marquardt (Theymos)
“For some time, Satoshi lurked on various cypherpunk mailing lists. It was a little hobby of his, but he wasn’t famous or a major participant. One day the idea for Bitcoin came to him. He wasn’t sure that it’d work, but he was excited about it, so he thought that he’d give implementing it a try. In the two years that it took him to finish 0.1, new interesting facets of the problem presented themselves, and he was able to solve them. He considered a number of future use-cases, and added support for them to his software. When it all seemed to be working OK, he released it.”
Satoshi sent many emails and posted on forums. I am trying to understand the man through his words.
“That’s a great idea. There’s a thriving business in those services, but I’ve always thought the standard payment methods are at odds with privacy minded customers.”
Quote from: laszlo on 2010-06-18, 02:50:31
“How long have you been working on this design Satoshi? It seems very well thought out, not the kind of thing you just sit down and code up without doing a lot of brainstorming and discussion on it first. Everyone has the obvious questions looking for holes in it but it is holding up well”
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.
The steady addition of a constant of amount of new coins is analogous to gold miners expending resources to add gold to circulation.
The probability of an attacker catching up from a given deficit is analogous to a Gambler’s Ruin problem. Suppose a gambler with unlimited credit starts at a deficit and plays potentially an infinite number of trials to try to reach break even.
As an example, say some unpopular military attack has to be ordered, but nobody wants to go down in history as the one who ordered it. If 10 leaders have private keys, one of them could sign the order and you wouldn’t know who did it.
“The developers expect that this will result in a stable-with-respect-to-energy currency outside the reach of any government.” — I am definitely not making an such taunt or assertion.
Sorry to be a wet blanket. Writing a description for this thing for general audiences is bloody hard. There’s nothing to relate it to.
“In the absence of a market to establish the price (of bitcoin, estimates) based on production cost is a good guess and a helpful service (thanks). The price of any commodity tends to gravitate toward the production cost. If the price is below cost, then production slows down. If the price is above cost, profit can be made by generating and selling more. At the same time, the increased production would increase the difficulty, pushing the cost of generating towards the price. In later years, when new coin generation is a small percentage of the existing supply, market price will dictate the cost of production more than the other way around.
- Nick Szabo and Wei Dai were suspected to be Satoshi just because he mentioned their names as references on bitcoin website and many times in forums. According to me, it was general discussion.
- Satoshi does not follow the conventional methods of software development in the initial phase.
- Satoshi is not an elite cryptographer but understands cryptography.
- Satoshi is good with architecture and designing algorithm.
- Satoshi is well versed with C, C++ and works on windows during the 2008-2010 period.
- Satoshi is a brilliant programmer.
- Satoshi is well versed with Economics.
- Satoshi uses analogies wherever possible. He has a unique way to explain things. He feels bad if there is no analogy to relate to 🙂
- Satoshi is a privacy advocate.
- Satoshi is not an anarchist or against the government. He never made any comments related to that. Satoshi was more interested in the technology.
- Satoshi started working on Bitcoin from Mid 2007. Financial meltdown or his own personal interest could be the reason.
- Satoshi is a single person, not a group. The language used has consistency of a single person. The usage of “We” is common among publishers while submitting papers.
- Considering Theymos is right about Satoshi, it was always trial and error as the concept was new and Satoshi was not sure about the outcome.
- Digital Cash was a popular topic in cryptography circles dating back to 1990. Satoshi succeeded only by solving the double spending problem without a trusted third party. Bitcoin is a result of many inventors like Mark Miller, Adam Back, David Chaum, Stefan Brands and couple of Japanese cryptographers.
Based on the conclusions drawn, Satoshi’s skillset appears to be of academic level with no real-time working experience of cryptography or software development . He seems to have a right blend of Cryptography, Coding and Economics which is very amusing.