Bitcoin, your anarcho-syndicalist little brother’s favorite cryptocurrency, has created quite the stir of late. Just last month, your dead grandmother’s favorite newsweekly, Newsweek, covered itself in whatever the opposite of glory is when it pinned the blame for bitcoin on an unsuspecting and camera-shy Californian named Dorian Nakamoto. The man, who reacted to the accusation that he had created a massively popular currency as if someone had shot his dog, retreated to the safety of an awful haircut shortly after the “news” broke. But if Nakamoto wasn’t the creator of bitcoin, then who was?
Yesterday, Slate magazine (a digital publication that is only a magazine because we all agree it is one) reported on the latest developments in bitcoin founder speculation. The results of an academic analysis might shock you. They might horrify you.
They might make you wonder whether that class you took at George Washington Law was taught by the inventor of bitcoin…
In case you’re super dumb and didn’t figure it out from the last sentence, the new alleged inventor of bitcoin is a former George Washington Law professor named Nick Szabo. Slate reports that a study undertaken by a British university has fingered the professor as a “probably creator” of bitcoin.
The study analyzed the original bitcoin proposal to ferret out linguistic tics that might reveal the author. Those giveaways were as follows:
This includes the use of: the phrases “chain of…”, “trusted third parties”, “for our purposes”, “need for…”, “still”, “of course”, “as long as”, “such as” and “only” numerous times, contractions, commas before ‘and’ and ‘but’, hyphenation, ‘-ly’ adverbs, the pronouns ‘we’ and ‘our’ in papers by a single author; fragmented sentences following colons and reflexive (-self) pronouns.
For our purposes, this will suffice: I said.
The study is quick to hedge its bet on Szabo, saying that it is only probable that he wrote the paper that preceded the creation of bitcoin. As I am not a linguistic forensicist, I will limit my analysis to an arena in which I feel comfortable. Specifically, I will scour Szabo’s homepage to determine whether he’s a weirdo. Let us begin.
Szabo’s homepage is a trip, residing somewhere between your old Geocities website and the the driest syllabus of all time. It’s filled with words I don’t know, like hermeneutics and intrapolynomial cryptography, and littered with words I know, but don’t know together, like “Book Consciousness.” It even uses a word that I’m certain is made up: proplets.
Besides the language, it’s a document that certainly smells of a cryptocurrency pioneer. There are several links to papers on the subject along with discussions of historical finance constructs and development. Professor Szabo appears to know a helluva lot about computers, finance and… “An Explanation of the Kula Ring”???
Perhaps the most interesting tidbits (proplets?) Szabo has on his homepage are found at the very end, where he includes both a statement of his worldview and a link to an adoring Ronald Reagan fanpage. The worldview “draws heavily from scientific methods, including theoretical applied science.” If Professor Szabo was attempting to pass the Reverse Turing test with that odd statement, congratulations are in order. If he was trying to sound human… better luck next time?
The Reagan fanpage is even stranger still. As two of the only words I understood on Szabo’s page, I hurriedly clicked on “Ronald Reagan 1911-2004.” Alas, I was greeted with nothing more than a collection of quotes. Tear down this webpage, Szabo!!!! At any rate, the fawning paean to Ronnie did give a brief glimpse into the key to understanding Nick Szabo and knowing whether he invented bitcoin. The last Reagan quote, appropriately placed under the heading “Other Reagan Quotes,” says this:
“You can tell a lot about a fellow’s character by the way he eats his jelly beans.”
Forget linguistics forensics analysis. Someone watch this goofball eat a jellybean!
Another Father of Bitcoin? [Slate]