The following opinion piece originally appeared in CoinDesk Weekly, a custom-curated newsletter delivered every Sunday, exclusively to our subscribers.
For all we all know , the primary cave-dweller to rub two sticks together was a misogynist. or even just a mean person. albeit so, fire remains useful for cooking and heat .
To use more concrete examples, Wagner and Ford were nasty anti-Semites. But we will still appreciate the sweetness of the Ring Cycle and therefore the efficiency of the production line .
In other words, the identity or character of the creator has little, if any, pertaining to the worth of the creation.
That’s why the mainstream media’s obsession a couple of years ago with unmasking Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous inventor of bitcoin, was so silly. We’ve seen what bitcoin does, we all know how it works, the code is public. the main target on its author would be laughable if it weren’t also destructive.
A circus and a distraction
Quite aside from doxxing poor old Dorian Nakamoto and rewarding Craig Wright with the limelight, these circuses distracted public attention from the far more interesting questions on money and society raised by Satoshi’s work and by the projects it inspired.
Questions like: Why did it still take days to transfer money between bank accounts when an unknown geek had demonstrated that value might be zapped across the world in minutes? Could capital controls still add the age of the web (if they ever did) – and if not, is that basically a nasty thing? And what does one mean, I don’t actually own the stocks in my portfolio?
But far too many of us in my profession are less curious about engaging with big ideas than in talking about people . As President Trump would say: Sad!
Yet, this is often another way bitcoin exposes new vistas. once you spend time exploring the rabbit burrow of cryptocurrency, it inevitably gets you brooding about identity – when it’s important, when it isn’t and why.
To be sure, there are times when knowing someone’s identity is useful , even critical. Businesses often got to know something about their customers to protect against fraud or assess credit risk, for instance . Some scam artist has recently been impersonating CoinDesk and sending phishing texts with our name thereon to people within the Netherlands – now there’s someone who deserves to be unmasked (along with other consequences).
But there are other times when identity can serve to cloud people’s judgment. And not even the bitcoin community has been resistant to this problem.
In a Bitcoin Improvement Proposal (BIP) submitted in March, because the scaling debate was heating up, Chris Stewart, co-founder of SuredBits, described the danger:
“We are seeing the politicization of protocol level changes. The critiques of those changes are slowly moving towards critiques supported who is submitting the BIP – not what it actually contains. this is often the worst thing which will happen during a meritocracy.”
To address this, Stewart proposed requiring BIPs to be submitted pseudonymously. “This means a BIP are often proposed and examined supported its technical merits,” he wrote.
And if a developer wanted to say credit after a BIP was accepted, Stewart included how for them to cryptographically prove authorship – preempting another Craig Wright-style drama.
In a conversation a couple of weeks ago, when the Segwit2x fork was still expected to happen and bitcoin tribalism had reached a excitement , Stewart gave one more reason why technologists might want their ideas to be discussed without attribution.
“I think more people got to be aware of their online persona – it can have dire consequences,” Stewart told me, citing as an example the recent “swatting” of a prominent bitcoin engineer. “I’m guessing anyone that’s a robust persona during this space is getting tons of harassment.”
So the next time someone asks you who you think that Satoshi is, don’t enjoys gossipy parlor games.
Instead, make them think by answering with a question: “Who invented pants?”