Vitalik's Blunder
Last year Vitalik Buterin tried refute the assumption that the scientist Dr. Craig Wright is Satoshi Nakamoto. His argument was based on Signaling Theory. Most people think that this is some sort of complicated technological theory but this has actually more to do with biology and psychology of behaviour than with tech stuff. Signaling Theory is based on communication between individuals. So Vitalik was clearly not in his field when he said this:
“In general, signalling theory says that if you have a good way of proving something and a noisy way of proving something, and you choose the noisy way, that means chances are it's because you couldn't do the good way in the first place.”
Vitalik should be right about this. If we were talking about mating animals. But I believe that in this case he is completely wrong. This is my analisis about his theory. Now, before I begin. I don’t believe that Dr. Wright is Satoshi Nakamoto. I have my own assumptions as to who or rather what Satoshi is. I’ll include some of that at the end of this essay.
Signaling Theory is applied to the study of animal behaviour. For example during mating. Animals need to share signals among each other in the most public way possible to get the most chances of reproducing. For example when a chimp defeats another chimp he would obviously choose to signal publicly who the real chimp-daddy is. So what Vitalik said is true in this case. In theory someone trying to prove something would use whatever is at his advantage to prove it. The one vital detail Vitalik missed is that this is only true if the subject actually wants to prove something publicly. But what happens if it is not convenient for the subject to prove something?
Humans are mostly more intelligent than animals and our interactions and motives are complex. Maybe Vitalik thinks that Craig Wright would love to prove he is Satoshi. But according to the Interview Mr. Wright just wants to be left alone. This is not a mating contest. He clearly looks disgusted at the media attention. According to one of Dr. Wright’s presentations he does not want to be a hero. He does not want to be regarded as a king. “There is no king in Bitcoin.” he said.
Furthermore, who would like to prove to be the most massive Bitcoin owner in the world? Remember what Edward Snowden said? “I recommend you don’t tell anyone you have Bitcoin”. Well then, why would you want to tell to the entire world that you actually have the most massive Bitcoin fortune that has ever existed? Wouldn't that attract the attention of the media, banks and governments around the world? Camouflage is also found in the animal kingdom. Animals like the mantis use it to avoid being detected. Can you imagine the attention you would attract to yourself if you proved to be the inventor of Bitcoin?
According to Dr. Wright he would rather go back to anonymity and this is what Vitalik is missing. It would actually be counterproductive to prove he is Satoshi. It could even be dangerous. In this scenario I would choose the most direct and public way of proving to be Satoshi only if someone had a gun pointed at my head telling me to prove it.
In a talk Dr. Wright did in Switzerland he brought a wheelbarrow full of diplomas, masters degrees and even a doctorate. He proved in the most public way possible that he actually had all those titles. He even made it in a funny way to rub it in the face of all those people that said he didn’t had any of those titles. Proving you have academic degrees is one thing. Proving you are the inventor of Bitcoin is a whole different thing.
People think that Vitalik is some sort of super genius but in my opinion his clever remark was not that clever. Maybe Vitalik would love to be regarded as the Bitcoin creator but not everyone likes that type of Rockstar attention. I would keep it a secret. Let's try to see where Vitalik is coming from. He is a smart and successful young man, the creator of Ethereum and he has enjoyed the status and attention of being regarded as such for several years now. I bet he constantly signals to females that he is the creator of an important cryptocurrency. Don’t get me wrong, that sounds like a great mating strategy but not everyone thinks that way all the time. I don’t think Signaling Theory is “very simple” like he said. I think signals can be very complex when it comes to humans and you always need to take the environment and motives of the subject into account.
Now, I said I don’t actually think Craig Wright is Satoshi Nakamoto. What Dr. Wright did was prove to Gavin Andresen an a few others that he has the keys to the genesis block. This doesn’t mean he created Bitcoin. So who is Satoshi Nakamoto? The short answer: No one on knows. What we do know is that Satoshi Nakamoto has become a legendary figure in people's imagination. Over the course of several years the mystery has grown larger and larger and as Bitcoin proves to be a real alternative to our corrupt economic system, its creator has entered the public consciousness as some sort of liberator. At least this much is true. That may be one of the reasons why people are so reluctant to think that Craig Wright could be the inventor of the first and most famous cryptocurrency. I also believe there is a good chance Satoshi Nakamoto was created by a group of computer scientists and cryptographers not just one person. Such an amazing and complicated creation looks to me like the product of many geniuses working together. Maybe Dr. Wright was one of them. Maybe not. Who knows. Maybe we will never know. One thing is certain. If you are trying not to attract attention to yourself then the most stupid thing you could do is to provide irrefutable public proof that you are the inventor of Bitcoin.
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