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商业 - 科技

中本聪的真身找到了?原来不是日本人

Jeff John Roberts 2018年11月07日

比特币之所以传奇,一个重要原因就在于我们永远也无法真正得知谁才是这种著名加密货币的创造者。

图片来源:Maciej Toporowicz—Getty Images

《比特币白皮书:一种点对点的电子现金系统》(Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Cash System)一文在互联网横空出世,距今已有十年时间。写出这篇论文的天才所描绘的数字货币,如今的价值已经超过了1,000亿美元,但他并未透露自己的身份,只留下了中本聪的化名。

如今的媒体每每描绘中本聪,总是离不开“神秘”这个形容词。比特币之所以传奇,一个重要原因就在于我们永远也无法真正得知谁才是这种著名加密货币的创造者。虽然如此,这份白皮书的作者究竟是谁,如今却已有充足的证据。

如果你认同“奥卡姆的剃刀”(Occam’s razor)这个哲学原理,即最简单的解决方案往往就是正确的那个,那么中本聪的身份就几乎不存在疑问了——至少在笔者看来如此——他是一个50岁左右的美国人,名为尼克·绍博。

笔者第一次听说这个人,是在六年前报道科技网站Gigaom的比特币大会时。然后就像现在,加密货币的圈内人士不愿意公开表示绍博是中本聪,但是在私下的交谈中,好几个人向笔者透露:他们认为是绍博创造了比特币。

许多外部证据都支持这一结论。权威记录比特币早期历程的作品《数字黄金》(Digital Gold)的作者纳撒尼尔·波普尔描述了绍博早期的文章如何描绘了比特币的架构,在中本聪的比特币白皮书发表后不久,他如何邀请其他人帮助他“编码一个”。

他的个人经历也很符合。与其他疑似中本聪的人(很快就会讨论到他们)不同,绍博的专业背景很对口。他是一位计算机专家,一位熟练的密码员,据说也是名法学学者。他自由主义的世界观也与中本聪一致,后者在比特币的第一个区块链中编码了一条谴责银行紧急援助的消息。我在今年纽约的金融会议上见到绍博时,他正大谈隐私问题,以及对于不需要信任第三方的金融系统的需求——这是中本聪白皮书中的核心观点。

所有这一切都表明中本聪就是绍博。不过至少在我看来,让这一结论摆脱严重质疑的,是2014年的一次语言分析。这次语言分析由英国阿斯顿大学(Aston University)司法语言学中心(Centre for Forensic Linguistics)展开,他们将中本聪的论文与12位被认为可能是比特币创造者的作品进行了对比。结论呢?“语言学上看,绍博的作品与比特币白皮书的相同点多得不可思议,其他候选人远不能及。”

依据奥卡姆的剃刀理论,中本聪就是绍博。同理,其他中本聪候选人的情况要复杂得多,因此可能性就大为降低。

网站Breaker于上周发布了一篇文章,题为“疯狂寻找中本聪”,这是一位记者试图寻找比特币创始人的经历,很有参考价值。随着线索逐渐明了,其他中本聪的候选人都不符合条件。其中包括克雷格·赖特,他是唯一自称为中本聪的人,但是那些支持他说法的技术陈述已经被证明为假,加密货币领域的许多人都斥责他为骗子,其中还包括维塔利克·布特林(以太坊创始人)。

这让绍博成了唯一可信的中本聪人选。(证据是否无可争议?并不。我相信他是中本聪吗?绝对相信。)不过,某个反对意见阻止了该问题盖棺定论:绍博屡次否认自己是比特币创始人。他在2015年给Popper的文章中写道:“所有这些推论让我受宠若惊,但是错了——我不是中本聪。”

为什么要否认?原因有二。首先,“中本聪”有充分的理由不暴露身份。与中本聪绑定的区块链钱包里有超过100万个比特币,价值数十亿美元。暴露自己中本聪的身份,会立刻引来政府、税务部门和一系列罪犯的关注,保持匿名会安全得多。同样,绍博很重视隐私(有些人将其称为隐士),可是一旦承认自己是中本聪,他就会立刻变成被媒体和粉丝包围的名人。

中本聪保持匿名的第二个理由更加微妙,但却十分重要。他的身份一旦暴露,就会降低比特币诞生的传奇性。像许多宗教一样,比特币的吸引力有一部分正是来自它的神秘。比特币的信徒和记者都喜欢中本聪的神话,让它降格为一个美国人发表论文的平凡故事,会让整件事情乐趣大减。

所以,即使有可靠证据表明中本聪就是尼克·绍博,舆论依旧认为比特币的诞生是个谜。所有人都更喜欢这种论调。不过至少在比特币诞生十周年的这一天,让我们为了这一优秀的加密货币和出色的工作而向绍博表示祝贺吧。(财富中文网)

译者:严匡正

It’s 10 years to the day since a paper titled “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Cash System” first turned up on the Internet. The genius who wrote the paper, which describes a digital currency that is now worth over $100 billion, did not identify himself but instead used the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto.

The press today rarely describes Nakamoto without using the word “mysterious,” and it’s a mainstay of Bitcoin lore that we’ll never really know who created the famous cryptocurrency. Nonetheless, the evidence is overwhelming about who wrote the white paper.

If you subscribe to the philosophy principle known as Occam’s razor, which holds that the simplest solution tends to be the correct one, there’s little doubt—in my mind, at least—as to Nakamoto’s identity: He is a 50-something American named Nick Szabo.

I first heard of Szabo six years ago covering Bitcoin conferences for the tech site Gigaom. Then, as now, crypto insiders are reluctant to publicly state that Szabo is Satoshi but, in private conversations, several confided to me they think Szabo created Bitcoin.

There’s also plenty of external evidence to support this. Nathaniel Popper, whose book Digital Gold provides the canonical account of Bitcoin’s beginnings, has described how Szabo’s earlier writing described the architecture of Bitcoin, and how he asked others to help him “code one up” shortly before the Nakamoto white paper appeared.

There’s also the matter of biography. Unlike several other Satoshi suspects (more on that in a minute), Szabo’s background fits. He’s a computer savant and an accomplished cryptographer, and is reportedly a legal scholar as well. His libertarian worldview is also consistent with Satoshi, who encoded a message in the first block on Bitcoin’s blockchain decrying bank bailouts. When I saw Szabo appear at a financial conference in New York this year, he spoke primarily of privacy and the need for a financial system that didn’t require trusting a third party—central precepts of the Satoshi white paper.

All of this points to Satoshi being Szabo. But what pushes the conclusion beyond serious doubt, in my mind at least, is a 2014 linguistic analysis. That analysis, performed by the Aston University Centre for Forensic Linguistics in the UK, compared the writing style in the Satoshi paper to 12 people identified as possible creators of Bitcoin. The conclusion? “The number of linguistic similarities between Szabo’s writing and the Bitcoin whitepaper is uncanny, none of the other possible authors were anywhere near as good of a match.”

On the basis of the Occam’s Razor principle, Satoshi is Szabo. By the same token, the case for other Satoshi suspects is far more convoluted and therefore far less probable.

The website Breaker last week published “Desperately Seeking Satoshi,” a helpful history of journalists’ attempts to identify Bitcoin’s creator. As the recap makes clear, none of the other candidates come close to fitting the bill. This includes Craig Wright, who is the only one to claim he is Satoshi, but whose technical claims to support his case have proven false, and who has been reviled as a liar by many in the crypto community, including Vitalik Buterin.

This leaves Szabo as the only serious candidate to be Satoshi. (Is the proof indisputable? No. Am I convinced? Absolutely.) There is, though, one serious objection to closing the case: Szabo has repeatedly denied he is Bitcoin’s creator. “All this speculation is flattering, but wrong—I am not Satoshi,” Szabo wrote to Popper in 2015.

What to make of the denial? Two points. First, “Satoshi” has very good reasons not to identify himself. Namely, wallets on the blockchain tied to Satoshi contain more than 1 million Bitcoins, which is a fortune worth billions of dollars. Revealing himself as Satoshi would instantly invite the scrutiny of governments, tax agents and a hoard of criminals—maintaining a mask of anonymity is the much safer bet. Likewise, for a person like Szabo who values privacy (several accounts describe him as a recluse), claiming the mantle of Satoshi would transform him into a celebrity besieged by media and fanboys.

The second reason for Satoshi to preserve anonymity is more subtle but also important. Namely, it would undercut the marvelous origin story of Bitcoin. Like many religions, Bitcoin’s appeal is in part tied to its mystery. Bitcoin believers and journalists alike love the Satoshi Nakamoto myth, and reducing it to a more pedestrian story of an American who published a paper would make the whole thing less fun.

So even though there is persuasive evidence that Satoshi Nakamoto is Nick Szabo, the consensus remains that Bitcoin’s creation is a mystery. Everyone likes it better than way. But let’s take one day at least, on this tenth anniversary of Bitcoin, to congratulate Szabo on his marvelous cryptocurrency and a job well done.

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