Wei Dai is a computer scientist known for theorizing b-money: an anonymous, distributed cash system similar to Bitcoin.
Source: Journal Du Coin
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Even the mighty Google can’t find the real Wei Dai it seems.
The little else we know about Wei Dai relates to his passion for computer science and cryptography.
May’s Crypto Anarchist manifesto suggested that cryptographic tools could even bring about the end of government (hence the name “Crypto Anarchy”). “Governments will have a hard time collecting taxes, regulating the behavior of individuals and corporations (small ones at least), and generally coercing folks when it can't even tell what continent folks are on,” he said.
Connections with Bitcoin
Given his contributions to the SL4 and Cypherpunk groups, we can see that Wei Dai believed technology and cryptography could drastically alter the course of human history. But did he have what it takes to create a ground-breaking new piece of technology that could change the course of human history – like Bitcoin?
“I was very interested to read your b-money page. I'm getting ready to release a paper that expands on your ideas into a complete working system.”
It's plausible that when Satoshi emailed Dai, he didn’t really need anything from him, and that he was only asking for a reference to give his paper more credibility. After all, did he need to cite a paper theorizing a digital currency he hadn’t heard of until after he finished building his own digital currency?
Dai actually acknowledged this point:
“My understanding is that the creator of Bitcoin, who goes by the name Satoshi Nakamoto, didn't even read my article before reinventing the idea himself. He learned about it afterward and credited me in his paper. So my connection with the project is quite limited.”
“Coming up with Bitcoin required someone who, a) thought about money on a deep level, and b) learnt the tools of cryptography, c) had the idea that something like Bitcoin is possible, d) was motivated enough to develop the idea into something practical, e) was technically skilled enough to make it secure, f) had enough social skills to build and grow a community around it."
“The number of people who even had a), b) and c) was really small -- ie, just Nick Szabo and me -- so I'd say not many people could have done all these things," Dai said.
Dai later clarified that he thought Satoshi could be a university student or a recent graduate. He said:
“When I came up with b-money I was still in college, or just recently graduated, and Nick [Szabo] was at a similar age when he came up with bit gold, so I think Satoshi could be someone like that."
His first name, Wei, was also chosen to be the smallest subunit of Ether, Ethereum’s native currency, thanks to Dai’s contributions to the crypto space.
Now that we’ve explored Wei Dai’s career and association with Bitcoin, let’s take a look at the evidence to determine if he could be Satoshi Nakamoto.
The Evidence That Wei Dai Could be Satoshi Nakamoto
#1 He Has the Technical Ability
Dai even acknowledges this point himself. When he was asked who could have invented Bitcoin, he provided a series of six competencies with which he felt nobody he knew matched up. In fact, suggested “just Nick Szabo and me” matched up with the first three of six.
Szabo actually suggested that Dai could be Satoshi. “Myself, Wei Dai, and Hal Finney were the only people I know of who liked the idea [digital currency] (or in Dai's case his related idea) enough to pursue it to any significant extent until Nakamoto (assuming Nakamoto is not really Finney or Dai).”
Furthermore, Dai was an expert at C++, the programming language that the Bitcoin code was written in. There are not many Satoshi suspects that had the technical background and C++ knowledge that Dai had.
Even experts agree that Wei Dai was one of the few people who could have created Bitcoin.
#2 He Proposed a Similar Idea on Digital Money Back in 1998
Dai proposed b-money, which essentially amounted to an early first draft of Bitcoin, about ten years before Satoshi published the Bitcoin whitepaper.
This doesn’t qualify as direct evidence, but it would make sense for the person who developed Bitcoin to have had a few earlier attempts in their past. The three people who have attempted to do so are Hal Finney, who created Reusable Proof Of Work; Nick Szabo, who created Bit gold; and Wei Dai, who created b-money.
#3 He Was a Cypherpunk
Satoshi Nakamoto shared the Bitcoin whitepaper with the Cypherpunks before anyone else, so it makes sense to assume that he might have joined the group before adopting his now famous pseudonym, only with a different name.
The Cypherpunks had several hundred members at their peak, so we can’t say that Dai must be Satoshi simply because he was a Cypherpunk, but it’s still useful contextual evidence.
#4 He’s a Master at Hiding His Personal Life
The fact that Wei Dai is one of the leading candidates to be Satoshi Nakamoto and yet almost nobody can find any information about him is truly remarkable. Better yet, there’s not even a verified photo of him online. This isn’t true of Nick Szabo, Half Finney, or basically any of the other people who could be Satoshi.
So given that Satoshi is obviously adept at hiding his true identity as well – could Wei Dai and Satoshi be the same person?
The Evidence That Wei Dai Is Likely Not Satoshi Nakamoto
#1 Satoshi Didn’t Know About Dai’s work Before He Created Bitcoin
Before he published the Bitcoin whitepaper, Satoshi contacted Cypherpunk Adam Back to see if he or anybody he knew had tried to build a digital currency before.
#2 He Says He Isn’t Satoshi
When Times journalist Andrew Smith asked Dai whether he knew who Satoshi was, Dai said he didn’t. He bravely speculated, however, that he was one of only two people who possessed the technical knowhow to have built Bitcoin – the other being Nick Szabo.
So, do you think Wei Dai created Bitcoin?