Is Nick Szabo Satoshi Nakamoto? New Must-Listen to Bitcoin Podcast Interview


Peter McCormack, of the What Bitcoin Did podcast, conducts a rare in-person interview with Nick Szabo, a ‘crypto' and smart contract pioneer on many levels.  The Nick Szabo episode on What Bitcoin Did show, titled “Cypherpunks, Money and Bitcoin” was the fastest podcast to reach 10,000 downloads in the first 20 hours of its release in WBD's history.

While we will openly admit the title of asking whether or not Satoshi Nakamoto is Nick Szabo was a bit hyped up, there are some subtleties that are well-worth the listen to in what one prominent Bitcoin backer called ‘the best audio recording in human history (so far)'. Pierre, a recognized bitcoin community contributor said everyone should listen to it at least three times (and we have to agree, already half way through number two).

While Peter shared the cliff-notes of what was covered in the gracefully conducted genuine conversation that took place in San Francisco on October 21, 2019, there was so much more to unpack and unbox (maybe unchain regarding the Satoshi bit too) than these top-level talking points:

  • – The history of money
  • – Bit Gold
  • – Cypherpunk wins
  • – Central banks and fiat currency
  • – Libertarianism & anarcho-capitalism
  • – Privacy – Austrian Economics

Who is Nick? in the Bitcoin World? to the BTC Ecosystem?

From a ten thousand foot view, this is a must-listen to interview with one of the most notable cryptocurrency pioneers ever, who also created BitGold (which was notably not referenced in the Satoshi Nakamoto whitepaper for Bitcoin back on October 31, 2008 yet parallels were uncanny, prompting a brief back and forth covered below).

While there are a dozen and half major takeaways to hear from the interview, one of the more glaring focal points was the dancing around the early day formations of Bitcoin (when you consider that Nick Szabo has always had strong affiliations with possibly being Satoshi Nakamoto or one of the main guys who represented the group), being super fascinating to listen in on his perspective and takes about Bitcoin in comparison to his BitGold creation.

Here are some notable soundbites and point overviews to pay close attention to while/when listening (where it is hardpressed not to imagine that Nick Szabo did not admit to being Satoshi Nakamoto on more than one occasion, but never directly nor definitively as nothing was clear cut in saying-so but it is fun to dream, wonder and hypothesize):

Due to the fact that Nick has only done public interviews with Tim Ferriss and Naval prior to the WBD interview, Peter was excited to get Szabo to share his insights and touched on the fact that his bitcoin tweeting activity has picked up in the recent past and wondered why he is now contributing more to the bitcoin-based ethos lately.

Nick's answer was simple = culture matters.

He said this is bitcoin's staying power, and that it is not being replicated with many other crypto coins/systems so far as well as the core BTC protocol.

Nick, who has specialized in property and smart contracts long before blockchain distributed ledger technology was a thing (who also has a background in computer engineering), gave the simple point of bitcoin being “trust minimized, not completely trustless”. He then dived into the way society interacts with bitcoin matters versus only the people coding, running exchanges, doing the mining or running full nodes.

Within the first fifteen minutes of the podcast, they dive into money's origins and how bitcoin came to be with all of its protocol layers.

He points out that Bitcoin started with security, reinventing money from the ground up, which is different than any other form of money to-date. Instead of taking the economist's view (alternating the money supply, own bank issuing I.O.U's at will), bitcoin is globally seamless because it doesn't depend on nation-states or laws.

At the nearly 17 minute mark, the conversation then transitions into BitGold, a predecessor to Bitcoin.

Going from the cypherpunks and how it came to be, also mentioning Wei Dai (B-Money creator), Hal Finney (first bitcoin transaction as well as referenced in whitepaper) as well as Nick's LibTech list of ‘fellow spirits' that was used as a creative ferment of ideas and concepts of these emerging technologies. They talk about which are the cypherpunks greatest achievements along with Bitcoin like WikiLeaks, BitTorrent and Tor browser.

Is Nick Szabo Really Satoshi Nakamoto?

This is where things start to get really juicy on the front of Nick being Satoshi, who has long been associated with being a possible candidate from the early day detectives who tried to identify Nakamoto.

At the near 32 minute mark, the conversation talks about the parallels with Bitcoin and Bitgold. Here are a few key notes to make sure and pay attention to:

  • Nakamoto consensus, double spending = big breakthrough for Bitcoin
  • mining difficulty = simplifying the money supply for a fungible currency
  • proof of work and fixed limit/amount of coins

At the 35 minute mark, Peter asked Nick if he was ‘upset' (pissed) that BitGold was not cited in the Bitcoin whitepaper due to there being a ‘ton of parallels' and ‘taking half the work', in which Szabo said it was an ‘auto-omission' (aka i didnt put it there because it was so obvious wink? wink?).

Then Peter asked ‘when you discovered it', he asked if Nick had any doubts about Bitcoin once finding out about it in which Nick replied in regards to his past pessimism he still had about his first e-cash project in Bitgold (which never made it to a software implementation). He then talked about the 2009, 2010 and 2011 days in which Bitcoin started to catch on and how he talked to Hal Finney and ‘some of the others' during that timeframe.

Then, as the rabbit hole plot thickens, Peter asked Nick if he had any ah-ha moments about Bitcoin – things get intriguing here to see why more insight is not shared here (but inquiring minds always like to fathom the idea that Nick is Nakamoto aka Szabo is Satoshi). Interestingly no questions from Peter or Nick suggestions were ever mentioned that Szabo had directly interacted with Satoshi (him/her/themself) or not <insert falling of a cliff meme>.

Before jumping off the Szabo is Satoshi train, just like he talks about the cypherpunks of elder will never admit they are online by-group-name today (which he says is probably best to stay clear of people proclaiming to be one), the same analogy can be applied to those who have tried to claim the Satoshi Nakamoto cryptocurrency crown. #JustAskPomp

Heading into the forty minute mark they start talking about the origins of money and how the modern-day society coinage and gold was invented and used. A few minutes in Nick expands upon what the ‘cantillon effect' and how money is placed strategically and not at random. He referenced getting closer to the spigot of money creation and how money just doesn't drop from a helicopter or the sky.

Transitioning, Peter wants to know the downsides or drawbacks of Bitcoin. They talk about phone wallets and electricity, poor internet access, as well as hard fork faults. They touch on the ability or benefits of being able to reverse a transaction but all of the politics that come along with the trusted third party that bitcoin does not need to function. They then mention about socialism vs free enterprise and how bitcoin differs fundamentally and functionality.

Another interesting topic they went into was bitcoin's block size, and the fact that if he said it would be smarter to error on the side of going smaller than 1MB limit like LukeJr once said (who caught alot of flake) too. This is to help decentralization to allow more full nodes in more places. They also briefly talk on quantum resistance and the threat of quantum computers.

Peter then asks Nick about the misconceptions about bitcoin in about the 51 minute mark. Nick responded with:

“…the most common one is that it is a form of retail cash that you pay for coffee with and its basically PayPal but it's its own currency – well no – every currency in the world is a multicurrency-layer system where you have settlement systems and retail payment systems because they are two different things..and alot of other systems too”

Essentially saying, one protocol can't fit it (security and throughput) all.

They then go back to the whitepaper and what Satoshi said about electronic cash system elements. He talks about the first layer being all about security and why layer 2 for payments (like Lightning) are viable routes (versus big block sizes etc) to take based on not being able to do everything on one core baselayer due to security holes. For those listening this leads into a break which resumes about the 57 minute mark.

They pick up to see what Nick's perspective is about bitcoin's ‘amazing' overall success now 11 years after the whitepaper release (by Satoshi) and Peter asks Nick if he is surprised at the rate of bitcoin's growth – Nick responds with:

“oh-yeah, there were so many things that failed, and then it was just our little brainstorming group on the Internet back in the day in the nineties (90s)”

This is really the second what-if Nick Szabo is Satoshi Nakamoto theory played out so far. Peter then asks him how big bitcoin can get and if he believes in hyperbitcoinization. Nick responded, “there are all kinds of possibilities, that involve messy politics that I cannot possibly predict.”

Now an hour into the interview, they talk about central banks, bitcoin's network effect, and how fiat currency is evolving. From there they go about bitcoin maximalism vs altcoins and what types of crypto projects he is into (like privacy coins). Ethereum is next up and the turning-complete blockchain but also the governance downfalls of ‘power corrupt' or ‘centralization corrupt'.

After more back and forth for the next eight-to-nine minutes into the hour, Peter asks whether bitcoin is ‘useless' or not because its volatile and scared to lose 80% or more as an speculative investment. Nick then goes down the path of money and how it will keep growing, admitting that it is a ‘gamble' yet the price of Bitcoin is only part of the pie/equation.

He said, “the price [of bitcoin] only gives you so much information”.

Having studied the history of money, Nick alludes to how bitcoin works in terms of resolving historical problems such as the validation problem, assessing gold precious metals is expensive etc. He also talks about the feasibility of everyone running full bitcoin nodes to help solve the double spending problem. Then a back and forth transpires about the history of looting between countries and continents. He boils them down into key storage advances and user-interface changes coming.

Looking forward, Peter asks for Nick's next 5-10 years prediction. He talks about the government's hands-off approach has been so far as well as how politics will influence cryptoverse, also touching on Libra's chances of launching.  Going on to say:

“Bitcoin is part of the reality now – it is a reality on the ground, now it's very mainstream”

Szabo also thinks Libra will compete with Tether (USDT) more than Bitcoin. Peter gets back to the ‘best hope' for bitcoin, in which Nick said its likely to move up the food chain, banks resisting it now but will probably convert to in less developed countries first. He also talks about whether or not internet access increases and how it will boost bitcoin use.

In about an hour and twenty minutes in, Peter talks about deplatforming and GAB as an example. Then spend a few minutes going around the world talking about how countries use and view bitcoin. The remaining segments are well worth the thought provoking future-stimulating comments made to how life can possibly play out.

“Every time somebody gets censored, boom… they become a Bitcoin fan” ~ Nick Szabo

As far as the subtle hints on Nick Szabo possibly being Satoshi Nakamoto, it was just a few inquiring-minds-want-to-know more about Nick's interaction with Satoshi or if he was indeed the leader of the group of people who helped put out the bitcoin whitepaper and ‘act as Satoshi' on the forums etc. The Like in a Mirror post from the past listed NS and SN comparisons:

issatoshinickszabo

Anyway, the rabbit hole of bitcoin's formation and creation will always be a hot button topic of interest, but in the own words (with help) of Nick, he has said:

Make sure you listen to the whole episode (multiple times possibly) as there is a lot of nuggets and nuances explored between Peter and Nick. Leave your comments below about the Nick Szabo answers about Bitcoin and Satoshi Nakamoto, who has called bitcoin “a great contribution to the world”. Regardless, as many have already said, it does not matter who Satoshi is because there is no head of the snake (even though 700,000-1.1 million BTC are potentially under lock and key). On the same token, out of all the self-proclaimed #IamSatoshi individuals out there, Nick's the closest to Satoshi out of the bundle and has admittedly talked with Hal Finney (bitcoin's first transaction with Satoshi – who's neighbor was the man [Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto] thought to be Satoshi a few years into bitcoin's creation).

While Peter was (selfishly) hopeful that Nick would not do another interview for years, this podcast packed a powerful punch of ear opening analysis and insights from one of cryptocurrency's earliest adopters and badge wearers, Nick Szabo.

There was much praise coming from the early listeners of the Peter McCormack What Bitcoin Did podcast interview with Nick Szabo. The two tidbits about Szabo being Nakamoto are for entertainment comparisons only.

Danny: Humble, well spoken guy with a great story, definitely worth the listen

Cryptosaver: Great interview with Nick Szabo, one of the foundational thinkers and computer scientists in the space of cryptography and Bitcoin. #bitcoin $btc

FF2k: Solid interview, love Nick’s calm demeanor.

Cris: Great grab Peter. It's people like Nick Szabo that should be heard. Looking very forward to this one.

Brad: Good job getting Nick on, I was jonesin to hear more about why he likes Trump though

concierge: First time in a very long time I have listened to a podcast at just 1x speed. Excellent work!!

Image Source: What Bitcoin Did Podcast #163 ‘Cypherpunks, Money and Bitcoin' with Nick Szabo

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