The identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, the name given to the person or people who created Bitcoin, is one of the internet’s most enduring mysteries, fascinating wannabe sleuths since the digital currency was created in 2009.
Unsurprisingly, theories abound as to the identity of the crypto’s creator, who allegedly retains wallets containing around 1 million Bitcoins.
They include some very credible suggestions alongside a smorgasbord of weird and downright crazy conspiracy theories.
Among the more far-fetched theories is that British graffiti artist Banksy is the one and only Satoshi.
Banksy, for those of you who haven’t heard of him, rose to international fame with his street art – much of it in the form of stencils – that combines satire with political activism.
His pieces can now change hands for millions of pounds due to his celebrity following.
Some of his most celebrated works include pieces at the Gaza Strip, and an installation titled Dismaland, which poked fun at poor quality theme attractions.
From street art to cryptocurrency?
So how does one go from being a street artist to the creator of a piece of code that has the potential to bring about one of the most profound changes to the standard global financial model since the concept of money began?
The rumour appears to have started because of a hidden message contained in what is known as the ‘Genesis Block’. As its name would suggest, this is the first ever Bitcoin block to be mined.
Nestled in the block’s code is the following message: “The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout of banks”.
Immediately after the word ‘banks’ are four letter ‘ÿ’s that appear to be part of a variety of other characters that surround the message. It appears as such: “…bailout of banksÿ ÿ ÿ ÿ”. Below is the relevant excerpt from the block:
Did Banksy really admit to being Satoshi Nakamoto?
Is this a hint… or just a coincidence? This ‘clue’ has convinced some people that the artist and the cryptocurrency creator are one of the same.
Also, he once admitted it.
You see, when asked his identity during an interview with the now defunct thecoinfront.com website, Banksy apparently stated: “I am Satoshi Nakamoto”.
However, as we’ve already said, Banksy is well known for his sense of humour, and he could just have easily admitted to being Keyser Soze.
But let’s just run with this a while longer.
The British connection in the Genesis Block
One thing that’s striking is that the headline contained in the Genesis Block is taken from a British newspaper which in many ways doesn’t fit with the other candidates often put forward as the real Satoshi.
Why? Because nearly all of them are American, or permanently resident in the US.
Related post: Who is Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto?
So why would they choose a headline from a British newspaper to hide within the block?
Given the global economic situation back in 2009, it seems strange that they would single out this headline for particular mention unless they were living in the UK at the time, or regularly followed the publication online.
Like Banksy’s spray paint on bricks, was this message in the Genesis Code a form of digital graffiti, or even a signature, that would in many ways fit with Banksy’s social commentary and political activism?
Afterall, what better way for a known libertarian with a penchant for the subversive, to stick two fingers up to ‘The Man’ than to completely rewrite the rules of money.
There are other clues to British involvement if you read the reams of research that has been written on the topic.
Early chat logs where Satoshi discusses Bitcoin show that he/they are clearly a native English speaker. But not just that, a British native English speaker.
For example, He/they use the word ‘bloody’ in a very typically British way to emphasise a frustrating point, something the Brits are pretty much alone in doing.
Equally, many of these messages were posted during a time frame which correlates with the typical waking hours in the UK, and not, say, the US where, as we’ve said, the main suspects are all based.
Is ‘Robin Banks’ a message about Bitcoin?
Another interesting clue comes from the real Banksy’s supposed other pseudonym.
Some people believe that he’s actually Robin Gunningham, who was born on July 28, 1973, bear Bristol, the site of much of his early work.
According to The Sunday Times, Gunningham began using the name Robin Banks, which later led to Banksy.
Robin Banks, of course, is a play on ‘robbing banks’. Could this hint at Bitcoin being the means of robbing banks of their global financial monopoly?
This would tie in nicely with the rest of the theory, but Banksy’s identity has never been proven so this may be another red herring.
Is Banksy name-dropping Bitcoin a hint at his involvement?
Another less compelling piece of the puzzle is that in some of his more recent work, Banksy has referenced Bitcoin.
But so have many other artists as cryptocurrency becomes more of a global phenomenon and further enters the mainstream.
For example, Parisian street artist Pascal Boyart includes QR codes in his work which enable him to accept Bitcoin donations from admirers.
Here, however, the trail goes cold and, like Satoshi, Banksy has managed to keep his identity mostly a secret, despite being active since the 1990s.
The reality is that Banksy by all accounts moves in very different circles to the programmers and cryptologists who are likely to be behind the daddy of digital currencies.
But nonetheless there are some alluring parallels between Banksy’s political views and the nature of a digital currency designed to subvert the paradigm model of cash.
Afterall, Bitcoin is designed to liberate the world financially by creating what Satoshi referred to as a ‘trust-less’ system which removes the traditional third-party intermediaries needed to carry out digital money transfers.
The Banksy theory is a nice story as we’re a huge fan of his work, but ultimately it’s highly unlikely that he invented Bitcoin.
However, the mystery surrounding both his identity and Satoshi’s may never be solved until the individuals themselves step out of the shadows and tell the world who they really are.
Adam is the founder of The Crypto Adviser which offers experts guides and reviews on all things related to Bitcoin and cryptocurrency.
Adam is Diploma for Financial Advisers (DipFA) Level 4 qualified, a Member of the London Institute of Banking and Finance (MLIBF), and has worked for many years as a journalist and PR consultant, having studied with the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ).