For almost three years, filmmaker Paul Kemp has been investigating what happened to Bitcoin’s creator, Satoshi Nakamoto.
Satoshi Nakamoto is a pseudonym: the cryptocurrency founder (or founders) hid their identity only to vanish in 2011, two years after he unleashed his new digital currency on the world.
It’s believed Nakamoto holds more than one million Bitcoins — and not one of those coins has ever been transferred or moved from their digital wallet. If the value of Bitcoin continues to skyrocket, which it very likely will since there is a limited total of bitcoins in existence, Nakamoto could eventually become the richest person on earth.
In Searching for Satoshi: The Mysterious Disappearance of the Bitcoin Creator, Kemp investigates who the person (or people) behind the name might be and what might have happened to them.
Kemp was drawn to the story because it is, he says, “the greatest technological mystery of all time.” While there have been several attempts to uncover who Nakamoto is, none have been successful. So Kemp went on a global quest of his own, which he describes in the interview below.
What made you want to investigate the story — and whereabouts — of Satoshi Nakamoto?
When I heard about Bitcoin in 2009, 2010, 2011 … I didn’t really know what it was. I thought it was like Monopoly money. I thought it was just some crypto weirdness that [didn’t have] much staying power.
But as the decade went on, I started to realize people are still working on this thing and the name Bitcoin is everywhere. I saw ATM machines selling Bitcoin. I saw vendors [and] stores accepting Bitcoin. So I started paying more attention to it around 2018, 2019. That’s when I learned there was a guy named Satoshi Nakamoto, who actually created Bitcoin.
Everyone who knows anything about Bitcoin realizes he’s the greatest mystery in technological history. Nobody knows who he is. All they know is he could possibly be the richest person in the world in the coming years, but he’s just vanished.
Nakamoto launched Bitcoin in 2009, and by 2011, he [disappeared] with over a million Bitcoins. This documentary asks the deeper questions about who he is and why he did this.
<div class="player-placeholder-video-ui" title="Bitcoin was released in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto. 2 years later, he disappeared Searching for Satoshi
3 days ago
Featured VideoOn January 3, 2009, Satoshi Nakamoto, the mysterious creator of Bitcoin, released the digital currency to the world by posted the “genesis block,” the starting point from where Bitcoins could be mined through the blockchain.
How did you try to track Nakamoto down?
It’s a global story and it needed global legs. I needed to get on a lot of planes. I needed to do a lot of interviewing. Throughout the making of this documentary, I’ve been to the U.K. to uncover somebody who has claimed to be Nakamoto. I’ve talked to people in Australia. I’ve been to Saipan, which is a U.S. protectorate in the middle of the Pacific where I uncovered some amazing evidence of who Nakamoto might be. And of course, I’ve been to Silicon Valley and the enormous Miami Bitcoin conferences. I think I’ve traced a pretty good story for the audience.
How did you create your list of the five people Nakamoto could be?
The main candidates for Satoshi are currently:
Adam Back, a U.K. cryptographer.
Hal Finney, a now deceased cryptographer who was deeply influential in the creation of Bitcoin.
Wei Dai, who was a cryptographer in the late ’90s and early 2000s who had worked on an earlier proposal for a digital currency.
Nick Szabo, who is a polymath. He’s written on all sorts of things from politics to economics, but also has the coding ability to possibly be Nakamoto.
So there are a handful of top candidates, but there’s also the possibility that Satoshi Nakamoto is somebody that we’ve never heard of and that he basically released this technology on the world and vanished.
Perhaps we’ll never know who it is.
Did the direction of the film change as you dug deeper into the story?
It’s a detective story that’s still unravelling, so the film was constantly changing and evolving as I discovered new pieces of evidence. I went into this film not knowing who I thought Nakamoto was. I had an idea that it could be probably three or four people.
But I was thrown for a loop on that and was forced to rethink my conclusions. And the deeper I went into my research, the more I came up with different conclusions.
In the documentary, I’ve presented a character whom I strongly believe is Nakamoto. Maybe I’m wrong. But if so, I’d love my critics to prove why.
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