The real man behind the “Fake Satoshi”

Dr Craig Wright opens up on his autism, why he’s compelled to correct people, and reveals he’s a lot less prickly than he used to be.

Australian computer scientist Craig Wright has a simple message for those who don’t believe he is the inventor of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto.

“I am. If you don’t like it, stiff.”

But across two lengthy interviews in London and Malta for Blockchain Journeys, Wright makes very little effort to persuade me of his claim.

In the absence of hard evidence, this might be the best reason to believe him. I mean, what sort of “conman” doesn’t try to convince you?

That said, he has taken legal action against numerous people for calling him a “fraud” or a “fake” and says he can and will prove his case in court.

There will be a big hint as to whether he can back up his claim soon enough.

A ‘bonded courier’ is supposed to show up on or around January 1 with the key to Bitcoins believed to have been mined by Satoshi and which are now worth many billions.

He points out that being able to access 1.1 million of Bitcoin mined by Satoshi doesn’t actually prove much – after all, you could have the combination to a safe but not own the contents- but it will be interpreted by most as proof either way.

Wright has been hosing down expectations around this.

In a promoted post from CoinGeek on Twitter Wright said this week that there is no guarantee that the private keys to those coins would be available in January 2020.

Few people want Wright to be Satoshi

Wright freely concedes that few people in crypto want him to be Satoshi Nakamoto.

He has a very different philosophy to most Bitcoiners – he doesn’t think money should be free or anonymous or that their utopian version of decentralisation, in which everyone runs a node, is a worthwhile goal.

“In this industry there are lots of people who don’t want what I am (Satoshi) because they want to have Bitcoin as an anarchist system. They want to be outside the law. So they don’t want me coming along and talking to government.

“I don’t really care what they say. I mean at the end of the day they’re irrelevant.”

Who is the real man behind the cartoon supervillain?

Wright joined Blockchain Journeys for an interview that attempted to go beyond the usual questions he gets asked: which is invariably stuff about ‘why haven’t you proven your claim’, ‘private keys’ and ‘what about this fake document then?’ etc.

I tried that in our first interview and got nowhere. He seems to relish those sorts of questions as it allows him to drop into a pre-prepared monologue. It certainly doesn’t prompt him to say anything interesting or real.

Instead, for our second interview, I decided to try and find out what the man that many crypto enthusiasts see as a cartoon supervillain is actually like.

Wright is an unusual guy. He’s whip smart and reads 250 books a year, mostly audiobooks on triple speed.

He’s either a brilliant computer scientist or the world’s most successful patent troll, having applied for more than 800 blockchain patents and being granted more than 100 so far.

He concedes he’s a “terrible CEO” and says he wasn’t “terribly happy” when he was cited as Satoshi by Wired and Gizmodo in 2015 as “we hadn’t even told the kids”.

Wright is also a fairly difficult person who can be outrageously rude.

He delights in telling crypto audiences they’re fools and that the entire industry is full of scammers, scumbags, and thieves.

He has a particularly low opinion of the activities of crypto traders, his own crypto trading sister Lisa N Edwards in no way excluded.

On the autism spectrum

Bitcoin SV’s Jimmy Nguyen (who plays good cop to Wright’s bad cop) explained to Micky that his behavior is, in part, affected by his official diagnosis as on the autism spectrum.

Wright says it does impact on his day to day dealings with people.

“It’s like some people have OCD and things like that,” Wright says. “I like a controlled environment, I don’t like too much interaction with people.

“Part of why I occasionally go out and drink (is) because that dulls things.

“In normal environments, one on one, I have no problem but large group discussion and things like that I find difficult.”

One respected person in the blockchain world told me he thought Wright was “brilliant, but he feels compelled to let everyone in the room know he’s brilliant.”

‘I’ll hunt you down on the street’

“It’s probably more the thing that I need to correct people, which would bring across that attitude – which isn’t so much that I need to have people know, I’m brilliant, I need to get people to be correct.

“It’s the pedantic side of me. When people use the wrong words I do things like quoting the Oxford English Dictionary … which doesn’t endear you to people.

“It’s one of those things that I find really hard and I used to be far worse at it. I mean, when I was in my 20s I probably would have hunted people down randomly on the street if I ever heard them (and thought) ‘no, that’s actually wrong’. But I don’t do that sort of thing anymore.”

So believe it or not, Wright has mellowed. This is the nice, cuddly version of Craig Wright.

“Yes, actually I’m not anywhere near as prickly. I’m just like a cactus now, not this huge sort of spiny thing.”

His difficulty with people is one of the reasons he looks up to gaming billionaire Calvin Ayre as a ‘mentor’. Ayre has bailed him out on a number of occasions and runs the main mining operation behind Bitcoin SV.

“Calvin’s very good with interacting with people. He’s good with marketing. He’s good with selling ideas, with making people happy. All things I’m terrible at.”

Not here to make friends

Wright said the reason he doesn’t care much about what the crypto community thinks is because they are no help to him in his overarching goal – which is to turn Bitcoin SV into critical infrastructure.

“The people I’m connecting with, are not the people that most people think matter.

“Those crypto traders and whatever else who think that they can catch the next pump or whatever else. I don’t give a shit.

“I care about people who are politicians and parliamentarians who are regulators, business people … people who want to build things, people who actually want to take Bitcoin to where it needs to be, which is plumbing.”

He foresees a world where the “massively scalable” Bitcoin SV is the main blockchain and forms the backbone of a new internet.

It’s called the Metanet and it’s based on micropayments, rather than advertising, and takes back control from “privacy raping companies” like Facebook and Google.

Despite his bluster, it still must be hard to not be affected by the torrent of negativity sent his way.

“I’m getting used to it,” he says. “It was very difficult at first, especially the nature of all the false statements and sort of fake news and whatever else. But you learn not to read it, you learn to ignore it and you move on.”

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