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Is Stylometry the Key to Discovering Satoshi Nakamoto’s Identity?

It seems a popular pastime for crypto enthusiasts to speculate on the identity of the Bitcoin’s founder who goes under the pseudonym of Satoshi Nakamoto, but another approach has emerged for such individuals to while away their research time on.

The most recent revelation came in the guise of a biography, neither proven or otherwise to be the founder of the flagship digital technology, but there have been many. Without Sherlock Holmes or Columbo on the case, the most popular method of tracking and identifying just who might be the actual big name in crypto is stylometry. Wikipedia perhaps puts it best when it refers to the method as:

“…the application of the study of linguistic style, usually to written language, but it has successfully been applied to music and to fine-art paintings as well. Stylometry is often used to attribute authorship to anonymous or disputed documents.”

So how does one apply the application of written linguistic style to Satoshi Nakamoto and what are the results of those who have made the effort? In fact, why is it actually important, apart from simply wanting to know who owns Satoshi’s alleged stash of BTC 1 million?

The list of people associated with the name is growing, including Dorian Nakamoto, Ian Grigg, Nick Szabo, and Craig Wright and, as Bitcoin.com puts it, “a man from Hawaii”, not to forget that writer of the first chapter of he-who-shall-been-known-as-Satoshi’s memoirs.

In terms of having a hard copy on hand to study his/her linguistic style for unique phrasing, or a tendency to use a certain lexical selection, not to mention handwriting, there doesn’t seem to be a lot available. The aforementioned “autobiographical” piece was given the expert stylometrist critical eye and reportedly was short of tell-tale double spacings and misspellings and thus thought to be a likely contrived piece of text.

Some of the writing quirks and phrases identified from Satoshi’s white papers and emails are apparently hard to duplicate, reportedly found in only 0.8% of studied written texts. Some have apparently come close to a similar writing style, the five closest being Nick Szabo, Ian Grigg, Hal Finney, Wei Dai, and Timothy May. Szabo rated high on the comparison front due to algorithmic similarities in his early papers when studied side by side with the Bitcoin white paper. Data scientist Michael Chon tries to shed some further light on this:

“According to the classification algorithms, [stylometric analysis], all predicted that Nick Szabo is linguistically similar to Satoshi who had written the Bitcoin paper and Ian Grigg is linguistically similar to Satoshi who had exchanged the emails. The word ‘would’ is used by Hal Finney 28 times and the word ‘one’ is used by Nick Szabo 199 times. There is one unigram, the word ‘contract’, commonly used by Ian Grigg and Nick Szabo.”

Helpful? There is more…

“Wei Dai has the highest similarity score to the Bitcoin paper and Hal Finney has the highest similarity score to Satoshi’s email exchanges. From gensim, Timothy C May has the highest similarity score to the Bitcoin paper and Ian Grigg has the highest similarity score to Satoshi’s email exchanges. An unusual result is that Ian Grigg has a similarity score of .99996 to Satoshi’s email exchanges.”

Finally, as one thing that is transparently clear is that this is an open-ended case of missing identity that may go on for many years to come, a non-profit company in the UK has said that the search is over. They have the real Satoshi, and his name is Bitcoin Cash developer Gavin Andresen. Apparently, that went down like a damp squib and was quickly forgotten and all respect for stylometry seemed to go out the window.

Watch this space… seems the only appropriate way of finishing this particular piece of writing, until the next suspect comes along.

 

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