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Who is Satoshi Nakamoto? The Dorian-Finney Connection

Hal Finney

In this series on Satoshi Nakamoto, we present a series of curious facts and inferences about the legendary creator of Bitcoin, Blockchain and the start of the digital currency movement.

Back in early 2014, Newsweek outed one Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto, a 64-year-old Japanese-American out-of-work electrical engineer as the creator of Bitcoin.

The article in question was poorly researched, jumped to wildly inaccurate conclusions from decidedly shaky first principles, and turned out to be thoroughly embarrassing for Newsweek and Leah McGrath Goodman, the journalist responsible for turning a number of lives upside-down. It was a study in journalistic integrity and fact-checking, though not for the right reasons. Amongst its many, many dubious conclusions was this brilliant piece of deductive reasoning: ‘[Dorian’s wife Grace] Mitchell suspects Nakamoto’s initial interest in creating a digital currency that could be used anywhere in the world may have stemmed from his frustration with bank fees and high exchange rates when he was sending international wires to England to buy model trains. “He would always complain about that,” she says.’

Yep. Satoshi Nakamoto created censorship-resistant borderless cash to make it easier to pay for model train parts.

The Finney connection?
Under intense media scrutiny, it quickly became clear that Dorian Nakamoto did not know a great deal about Bitcoin, and was rather upset about the whole exposé. But here’s the odd thing. He did live just two blocks away from Hal Finney, who had been involved in Bitcoin in its very early days, before the protocol was launched even, exchanging ideas with Satoshi via the Cryptography Mailing List. Is that a coincidence?

CoinTelegraph suggests not. ‘A man with such a unique name living so close? I don’t think so.’ CT quotes a reddit post which puts it succinctly: ‘I think he [Dorian] is the real person after whom the Satoshi persona was named. The coincidence of having a Satoshi Nakamoto living 2 blocks away from Hal Finney’s home is just too improbable to be ignored. Hal and his cypherpunk counterparts intended for this old friendly retired man whose house had been foreclosed by banksters to be the symbolic figure behind the financial renaissance on behalf of all the victims of the modern financial system. Satoshi is Dorian and I think it’s just fine that way.

Dorian’s struggles against the financial system were a part of Newsweek’s metric tonne of circumstantial evidence, too. ‘Nakamoto, who was laid off twice in the 1990s, according to Mitchell, fell behind on mortgage payments and taxes and their home was foreclosed. That experience, says Nakamoto’s oldest daughter, Ilene Mitchell, 26, may have informed her father’s attitude toward banks and the government. A libertarian, Nakamoto encouraged his daughter to be independent, start her own business and “not be under the government’s thumb,” she says. “He was very wary of the government, taxes and people in charge.”’

It’s certainly an interesting idea: that the cypherpunks selected an everyman to act as their unwitting figurehead, selecting his middle name for reasons that are not entirely clear. But it’s not so big a deal that Dorian was so close to Hal Finney, specifically. The cypherpunk movement started in California – author of the Crypto Anarchist Manifesto Timothy C. May lived in Corralitos, California, and the movement began in 1992 after he, Eric Hughes (a mathematician from University of California, Berkeley) and computer scientist and later internet activist John Gilmore invited a group of a couple of dozen friends to a meeting to explore what they saw as some of the most critical questions in cryptography and computing. Given the understandable density of cypherpunks in the Bay Area, Dorian Nakamoto was going to be close to one or other of them.

But how common is that name? We’ll assume Newsweek’s premise is correct (risky, but run with it): ‘There are several Satoshi Nakamotos living in North America and beyond – both dead and alive – including a Ralph Lauren menswear designer in New York and another who died in Honolulu in 2008, according to the Social Security Index’s Death Master File.’

Nakamoto isn’t such a rare surname. There are around a hundred living in California, according to various name/address search websites. One site identified three Satoshi Nakamotos living in the US (depending on who you believe, McGrath Goodman’s Honolulu Nakamoto may still be alive after all). Let’s assume there aren’t any more, just so we have a starting point. California has around 12% of the US population, but a third of the nation’s 15 million Asians, so there’s a very good chance (over 50%) that, of the three Satoshi Nakamotos in the US, at least one of them would live in California – and quite possibly in the densely-populated Bay Area, in proximity to a prominent cypherpunk or two. Multiply that by the number of people who have ‘Satoshi’ as one of their first names, like Dorian Nakamoto, and the odds rise further.

In short, it’s a nice coincidence and great for conspiracy theories and speculation. It’s unlikely enough to be tantalising. But statistically, it’s not exactly jaw-dropping. If you want to find the origins of the pseudonym (and we do think it’s a pseudonym – the guy clearly doesn’t want to be found) behind the legend of Bitcoin, odds on you won’t find it here. Sorry.

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