Craig Wright is an Australian entrepreneur and computer scientist who claims to be the creator of Bitcoin, although his claims are widely disputed by the cryptocurrency community.
Of all the people who could be Bitcoin’s creator Satoshi Nakamoto, the most controversial is Craig Wright: the cryptosphere’s persona non grata. Wright is one of the few people to claim that he created Bitcoin; yet very few people take him seriously. Why is this?
Among other reasons, trying to untangle his narrative feels like trying to understand a technical lecture on quantum physics delivered in Dothraki.
Craig Steven Wright was born in 1970 and raised in Brisbane, a city on the Eastern Coast of Australia. His father, Frederick Wright, soldiered in Vietnam and possibly worked for the NSA, while his mother raised him.
Wright developed a fascination with computers and coding at an early age thanks to his grandfather, Ronald, a signals officer and possibly a spy in the Australian military. After retiring, he built a home computer lab in which he taught his grandson Craig computer programs.
As a teenager, Wright developed an interest in Japanese culture, particularly Samurai and in martial arts. During one of their training sessions, his teacher Mas told Wright about a Japanese philosopher called Tominaga Nakamoto. Nakamoto criticised religions which insist authority must come from traditions and history. According to Wright, this belief inspired the ‘Nakamoto’ part of the Satoshi Nakamoto pseudonym.
(*As for the ‘Satoshi’ part (which means ‘ash’ in Japanese) Wright says he partly chose it because of Pokémon protagonist Ash Ketchum, and partly because Bitcoin is the “phoenix” from which our society will be “reborn.”. However, Ash (as in Ash Ketchum) doesn’t translate to Satoshi; it’s just a name the writers chose. The name Satoshi is actually a common boy’s name signifying intelligence and wisdom.)
Wright’s mother noticed a troubling tendency in her son during her teenage years: he lied, constantly, and about seemingly inconsequential matters in order to shock or impress others. It's not clear when or why Craig began compulsively lying, but one thing’s for sure: it’s a behaviour that persists to this day. Even now, after regularly being caught lying by tax officials, journalists, researchers, lawyers and judges over a period of three decades, he still doesn’t tell the truth.
Wright joined the Australian Air Force straight out of high school, where he claims to have worked on a smart bombing system. Wright was apparently “locked” in a “bunker” while coding. It’s not clear whether this is true, but there’s little reason to think the Australian military would employ a baby-faced high school graduate to design bombing systems, let alone lock him in a bunker.
Following a skin cancer scare, Wright left the Air Force to embark on an IT career. His first jobs were for an Australian internet service provider called OzEmail and the retail chain K-Mart, after which he worked for the Australian Securities Exchange.
At some point in his early thirties, Wright started working with gambling firms like Centrebet and Lasseter’s Online, where he claims to have masterminded the architecture for the world’s first online casino, in addition to Playboy and a few unnamed Costa Rica-based casinos as well.
While Wright built his IT career, he began amassing qualifications in an impressively wide array of subjects, including: a masters degrees in quantitative finance, law, statistics, information security systems, network & systems administration, IT management, IS engineering, and political science. He also claims to have received a doctorate in business administration and a Ph.D., a doctorate in theology. Wright is also a researcher and lecturer at Charles Sturt University and authored various academic papers and articles. However, some of his academic achievements may not be legitimate. Charles Sturt University issued a statement that they have not awarded a Ph.D. to Craig Wright.
Nevertheless, he continues earning numerous qualifications every year up to the present day, and often claims his vast qualification collection acts as supplementary evidence of his Satoshi claims.
In 1997, Craig launched DeMorgan – an IT security service firm which designed security systems for Australian finance firms. After six apparently successful years at the helm, Craig sold 5% of the company’s shares to Michael Ryan for $50,000 AUD. Craig signed a non-compete agreement and stayed at the helm for the foreseeable future.
However, following irregularities in DeMorgan’s accounts related to Craig’s spending, Wright and his wife Lynn both resigned from DeMorgan to set up a new firm. And then, in spite of their non-compete contract, the Wright’s contacted all of DeMorgan’s clients trying to drum up business for their new firm.
This resulted in a legal spat - what is believed to be Craig Wright’s first undesirable encounter with the legal system. Wright stopped poaching his old clients from DeMorgan, even so, the company still folded not long later.
Following the DeMorgan fiasco, he worked as an information systems manager for an accounting firm called BDO. However, thanks to the 2008 financial crisis, Craig was let go. With nowhere else to go, Craig and Lynn packed up their belongings and moved to a farm along Australia’s East Coast. It was here, Wright claims, on a farm in rural Australia, that Bitcoin was developed from a tentative idea, and into a revolutionary invention.
Satoshi shared his whitepaper with the Cypherpunk mailing list on October 31st, 2008, and later sent it to the P2P mailing list as well. The Cypherpunk mailing list included technical experts like Wei Dai and Adam Back, as well as Craig Wright and Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder. Interestingly, Assange once called out Wright for suggesting people on welfare “need to get off their butts and work.” Addressing the Cypherpunks mailing list, but Wright in particular, Assange wrote, “Do we really need your amateur political views?”
Throughout his forum posts and emails, Satoshi employed British, and not American, spellings: cheque rather than check, for instance. This implies Satoshi learned English either in Britain, Europe, or in an ex-British colony, such as Australia.
During the summer of 2008, when Satoshi reached out to Adam Back and Wei Dai, Craig Wright was still working for the accounting firm BDO. Wright held no positions at other companies at the time, but he was studying for a law degree at the university of Northumbria in the UK, which he finished in early 2008.
It's clear that Craig Wright was a busy man in 2009 – was he too busy to have launched Bitcoin as well? It’s not impossible, but he probably wouldn’t have slept much.
So, did Wright really manage to finish a law degree, run these companies, and develop Bitcoin on just two or three hours of sleep per night, all by himself? This seems a little far-fetched. However, Wright doesn’t claim to have developed Bitcoin alone. Instead, he claims he developed Bitcoin with a little help from an American IT security expert called Dave Kleiman — a computer forensics and security expert.
The Evidence That Craig Wright Could Be Satoshi Nakamoto
#1 Email Exchange Between Wright and Kleiman
Three years later, another email exchange shows Wright confiding to Kleiman that he is purportedly unable to keep up the facade of being Satoshi. Again, if this email is genuine it could support Wright’s claims, but this doesn’t offer up any hard evidence.
#2 Blog Post
#3 Core Bitcoin Developer Gavin Andresen Was Convinced
Furthermore, although Andresen was understandably sceptical about meeting Craig in the first place, email exchanges between them convinced Andresen that Craig knows a lot about Bitcoin and sounded very similar to the Satoshi he corresponded with in the early days.
However, a February 2023 update to the post shows that Andresen regretted trusting Craig Wright and “getting sucked into the “who is (or isn’t) Satoshi” game.”
#4 Craig Wright’s Blog Post
#5 Craig Affiliation With the Gambling Industry and Bitcoin’s Code
Before he moved to the farm, Craig Wright spent considerable time working for and with gambling companies. He claims to have designed the digital architecture for Australia’s first online casino, Lasseter’s Online, in addition to working with the gambling arm of Playboy. Furthermore, of the three companies Craig Wright launched from the farm in 2009, two had strong ties to the gambling industry.
The Evidence That Craig Wright Is Likely Not Satoshi Nakamoto
#1 Legitimacy of Email Exchange
#2 Legitimacy of Blog Post
Like the email, this looks like hard evidence at first glance; however, also like the email, there are several reasons to doubt the blog post’s authenticity.
#3 Craig Wright “Cryptographic Proof” Debunked
However, the question still looms — how did Craig manage to convince others, particularly Bitcoin developer Gavin Andresen, during the private meetings that he owned the private keys that belong to Satoshi? One Reddit user posits that there is “a good chance that the "bug" in his script is actually designed to fool people who think they're watching him verify the signature in person.”
In the blog post, the script is written such that it looks like verifies the data the file path "$signature" but instead it reads from a file referenced in the variable "$signiture". However, there is also the question — why would Craig include this script in his public blog post, instead of a clean one?
#4 Lost Lawsuits Denying His Claims To be Satoshi
Wright sued Magnus Granath (aka Hodlonaut), a Norwegian school teacher, after Granath described him as “a very sad and pathetic scammer” and “clearly mentally ill.” Wright demanded that Granath take down his ‘defamatory’ posts, apologize to Wright, and accept him as Bitcoin’s creator. Granath refused, and so they went to court.
Public opinion was on Granath’s side: he received more than $1 million in public donations to help fund his defense. Before the trial began, it was clear Wright didn’t stand to gain much from beating Granath - doing so would only augment his bullyish reputation. But he pushed on regardless.
The court asked Wright to prove his Satoshi claims using either cryptographic proof or by moving the early bitcoins. He refused to provide the proof and said he stomped on the hard drives years ago, and so he couldn’t move the coins either. He said providing these proofs would give his critics “the easy way out.” He then argued that his academic credentials and friendships with influential people in crypto should prove his claims. But the court wasn’t impressed.
“In a situation where [Wright] has not succeeded in, nor does he wish to, provide cryptographic evidence that can support his claim to be Satoshi Nakamoto, the court believes that he must accept that there is a debate as to whether he is who he says he is.”
On this point, the judge later added, “Wright has come out with a controversial claim, and must withstand criticism from dissenters.”
Wright lost the lawsuit and was ordered to pay Wright Granath $348,257 in compensation. In her judgment, Judge Helen Engebrigtsen wrote, “[Granath] had sufficient factual grounds to claim that Wright had lied and cheated in his attempt to prove that he is Satoshi Nakamoto.”
So, do you think Craig Wright is Satoshi Nakamoto?