Marc Andreesen recently made a twitter (@pmarca) post:
“The idea that most computer/Internet people now are raving anti-government libertarian anarchists is simply wrong. A false caricature.”
That really struck me. I encounter a lot of political views in my bitcoin (virtual travels) and while there are quite a few libertarians and a few anti-government types they are by no means the whole community. Speaking for myself, I’m not a libertarian, and I actually work for the government (no not one of those spooky agencies just a science agency)!
Bitcoin has a tremendous number of fascinating technical capabilities and being a geek, that is actually the driving force for my interest. The fact that it has some value for some “social good” is gravy and wonderful but it happens to not be what is driving me. I admire those people for whom Bitcoin is seen as the solution to a lot of the world’s problems. Let’s get rid of the libertarian, anarchist myth, and move on.
Let’s try a little thought experiment. A little bitcoin Gedankenexperiment. Satoshi Nakamoto the inventor(s) of bitcoin creates this thing. Get the whole process going with an initial implementation, convinces some folks to continue development and then vanishes! What does this really mean?
Imagine (this is the gedankenexperiment part) that Satoshi revealed himself/herself (I will assume Satoshi is male for simplicity of writing but who knows!). He would be inundated with requests for direction, opinions of how to change the code, political opinions, financial regulation questions, you name it. They guy would have no peace. More importantly no matter what issue came up, and no matter who was working on the code or other related issues everyone would always be tentative until the great Satoshi weighed in.
This would have the effect of putting one person too much in control of the entire Bitcoin ecosystem. Of course this type of thing has happened in the past with other open source projects, such as Linux and Linus Torvalds being the “king”. Linux is clearly a wild success. Gavin Andresen, lead bitcoin core developer, has posted on several occasions that he doesn’t want to be put into the position where everyone is simply waiting to see “What Gavin says” as the last word, although I think that sometimes does happen despite his best efforts.
So the long and short of the anonymity of Satoshi has I think been quite helpful to Bitcoin, and has certainly spawned endless amusing speculation.
As you may know Bitcoin came into existence with the publication of a paper in a cryptography (that the science of keeping stuff secret) mailing list by Satoshi Nakamoto. The technical details are fascinating and most is beyond my understanding but another fascinating point is that Satoshi is an unknown person or persons! After the introduction of the Bitcoin software and once things seemed to be moving along with bitcoin achieving some actual value, Sathoshi simply disappeared!
For a while, before he disappeared he was communicating with a few people on the cryptography mailing list. One of those people was Gavin Andresen who created something called the “Bitcoin Faucet” where you could go to simply be given bitcoin’s! Now remember that bitcoin’s initially were worth about 0.05 cents (USD). Gavin bought 50,000 bitcoins (for $25) and simply gave them away, initially in 5 BTC chucks just for solving a trivial captha (that proved you were human). It was actually a brilliant way to bootstrap the Bitcoin economy and as things turned out it worked. According to numerous accounts in the press Satoshi asked Gavin if he could add Gavin’s email as a contact for the bitcoin reference software to which Gavin agreed. Next Satoshi simply vanished! Since then Gavin has become the main core bitcoin software developer (along with several other people) and that’s where things stand today. No one knows who Satoshi Nakamoto is, or isn’t talking, fun fun!