Dr. Craig Wright appeared on the In Early podcast in August to talk about Bitcoin. Specifically, he spoke of its inception, the ideas that led to it, the history of digital money, and why he released the system when he did. This is the first in a two-part series.
The origins of digital money pre-Bitcoin
Dr. Wright explains that the beginning of his interest in digital currencies and money goes back to the infamous Economist magazine cover with the phoenix rising from the ashes. In the ‘80s, it called for a global monetary system, and the idea gripped him.
Throughout the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, various attempts at eCash and digital money were tried. Natwest Bank came out with one, but it was a walled garden that could only be used by its customers. At this time, Dr. Wright was working for a company called Digital Equipment Corporation, which had its own system, but it didn’t deal with double spending and required users to load funds upfront, so it failed.
During this era, there were many attempts to create electronic cash systems. It was the early days of the web, and people were trying to figure out how to monetize it. Most of them failed to strike a balance between privacy and transparency—none hit the bullseye the way Bitcoin did.
Looking back at one of the most famous characters from this era, David Chaum, Dr. Wright says he belongs in the “cryptocurrency side of things.” He wanted anonymity, and sadly, lots of academics went this way. This sort of mindset has led to fundamental misunderstandings of what Bitcoin is and how it works.
Dr. Wright’s personal history and myths about blockchain
Dr. Wright says he has done a bit of everything. He did his first degree in discrete mathematics, set up a small ISP, and worked for various internet companies like AussieMail, as well as in warehousing and logistics. “Bitcoin is just a database,” he explains, pointing out that everything down to pencils can be tokenized on it.
Addressing a quote in which a professor claims that blockchain is merely a simpler way to record and store information based on ideas that have been around since the ‘80s, Dr. Wright says it’s somewhat true, but ideas don’t matter until you implement them and get results. “You could say the same about double-entry accounting,” he says, noting that some of the largest firms today use it.
While on the topic of myths, Dr. Wright aims for the biggest one of all—decentralization. The way he used it was to mean distributed networks, but BTC advocates have warped it to mean something Marxist, whereby everyone is equal and can run a home node.
More about Bitcoin’s creation and Satoshi Nakamoto
Dr. Wright tells us that it was basically him until Bitcoin’s release. A few people helped here and there with refining ideas, but he did most of it. He explains that this started as an interest of his, but since he has Aspergers Syndrome, he became obsessively focused on it, and like Thomas Edison, he didn’t give up until he succeeded.
Dismissing the myth of Satoshi Nakamoto as some benevolent anarchist, Dr. Wright characterizes his pseudonym as a benevolent dictator. He explains that he used the pseudonym partly to protect his privacy and separate Bitcoin from himself and his politics.
Why was it released during the Great Financial Crisis? Dr. Wright took voluntary redundancy during the GFC and was able to focus on it. He wanted to sell it to BDO, who he worked for, but they weren’t interested, and the financial crisis soon put a freeze on any other potential acquisitions.
Why a Japanese name? Dr. Wright’s grandfather fought in WW2, and he grew up with lots of different Japanese relics. He says that Satoshi appears different from him today because he’s a different person. He’s attempting to get back to the stoicism he once felt and got away from during some stressful periods of his life, he says.
Why did Dr. Wright choose to get involved after standing down for a period? He says he was never fully anonymous—he had talked to various people in government and elsewhere, and Wired and Gizmodo magazines were exposed him, so he decided to go public later.
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Watch The Bitcoin Masterclasses #2 with Craig Wright: Multicast & IP2IP
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