“Chancellor Nash” by @ormpho

19 Reasons John F Nash Jr. was Satoshi Nakamoto

It is bitcoin folklore that Hal Finney was party to the first transaction on 12 January 2009 with creator Satoshi Nakamoto, a pseudonym for person or persons unknown.

One of the usual suspects for the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto is Adam Back, because bitcoin describes itself as a proof of work system similar to Back’s Hashcash.

However, Back denies he is Satoshi Nakamoto:

Another candidate for Satoshi has been named as John Forbes Nash Jr., the mathematician who had a Hollywood film A Beautiful Mind (2001) made about his life.

Hal Finney was aware of Nash:

Following on from the idea of “proto-Extropian” — and given Nash’s work in cryptography, mathematics, game theory, and economics — there are 19 compelling reasons to believe Nash was Satoshi:

1. The shared characteristic of decentralisation in Nash and Satoshi systems

A quirk of bitcoin is it’s commonly championed for the characteristic of decentralisation, yet its white paper doesn’t reference this characteristic in such popular terms.

Rather, it speaks to decentralisation in reference to solving the problem of double-spending (fraud) and removing a trusted central mint by which the entire money system depends (Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System, section 2).

With regard to decentralisation, and in 1954, John Nash had a futuristic idea for “electronic brains” of the future:

“the idea is to decentralise control with several different control units capable of directing various simultaneous operations and interrelating them when appropriate” John Nash, Parallel Control, 1954

Satoshi in his bitcoin talk forum posts, refers to the decentralised nature of bitcoin:

2. Satoshi’s reference to bitcoin as an age-old design

Nash’s Parallel Control design says this on avoiding single points of failure:

Satoshi says this on the same subject:

Nash wanted his Parallel Control design to have wide applicability:

As did Satoshi for his bitcoin system:

“The design supports a tremendous variety of possible transaction types that I designed years ago.” Satoshi Nakamoto, 17 June 2010

3. The shared method of problem solving

Nash on problem solving:

Satoshi on the two problems the bitcoin proof of work computation solves:

“Digital signatures provide part of the solution, but the main benefits are lost if a trusted third party is still required to prevent double-spending. We propose a solution to the double-spending problem using a peer-to-peer network.” Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System, Abstract.

“The proof-of-work also solves the problem of determining representation in majority decision making.” Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System, Section 4

Trial, error, and chance also feature in the Nash and Satoshi methodology:

4. Nash and Satoshi’s convergent thinking on inflation

John Nash’s work on Ideal Money was based on the idea that a money should ideally be inflation-free, but realised this might cause a problem if it didn’t circulate:

So John Nash introduced a steady and constant inflation rate which would be more or less as good as to be free of inflation:

The parallel with bitcoin is clear:

“The steady addition of a constant of amount of new coins is analogous to gold miners expending resources to add gold to circulation. In our case, it is CPU time and electricity that is expended.” Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System, Section 6

5. “Uncommitted agency” in Nash and Satoshi systems

Satoshi on bitcoin nodes:

“Messages are broadcast on a best effort basis, and nodes can leave and rejoin the network at will, accepting the longest proof-of-work chain as proof of what happened while they were gone.” Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System, Abstract.

John Nash, in his Agencies Method, which evolved concurrently to his work on Ideal Money, developed an election procedure in respect to experimental studies on coalitions and coalition formation, the results of which were found to be “computationally heavy” and analogous to a scheme of “robotic attorney agents”:

6. Similar indications on the value of contracts

Satoshi on contracts:

“The design supports a tremendous variety of possible transaction types that I designed years ago. Escrow transactions, bonded contracts, third party arbitration, multi-party signature, etc. If Bitcoin catches on in a big way, these are things we’ll want to explore in the future, but they all had to be designed at the beginning to make sure they would be possible later.” Satoshi Nakamoto, 17 June 2010

Nash on the application of “ideal money” in contracts:

7. Nash and Satoshi’s shared distrust of central banks

Satoshi on central banks:

Nash on debt pardoning:

Nash on “Keynesians”:

“…a “Keynesian” would favor the existence of a “manipulative” state establishment of central bank and treasury which would continuously seek to achieve “economic welfare” objectives with comparatively little regard for the long term reputation of the national currency..” John Nash, Ideal Money, 2003

8. Citations in common on the idea of “collectibles” and “hoarding”

9. The Extra-Terrestrial


10. Nash and Satoshi’s shared belief in “new money”

“I’ve been working on a new electronic cash system that’s fully peer-to-peer, with no trusted third party.” Satoshi Nakamoto, 31 October, 2008

And on the internally divisible nature of the new money:

11. “Difficulty” ,“adjustment”, “the moving average”, as axioms in Nash and Satoshi systems

12. Uniqueness

13. Shared expectancy in Nash and Satoshi systems

14. Reoccurring ideas on “law” in Nash and Satoshi systems

The opening passages in the bitcoin white paper uses terminology and descriptions of mediation, disputes, reversibility, trust and fraud, which are all features of litigation. The two problems bitcoin says it solves (double spending, and determining representation in majority decision making) are also representative of legal processes, like escrow and how it can disincentive “cheating”:

With the emphasis on prevention:

Nash’s work in the Ideal Money and Agencies Method had a common focus on the nature and importance of contracts:

And Nash on the utility of “ideal money” in dispute resolution:

15. Common references to gold in Nash and Satoshi systems

“Our proposal is that a preferable version of a general system for the transferring of utility, thus a “medium of exchange”, would be structured so as to provide a medium with a natural (and reliable!) stability of value. And this stability of value would be particularly of benefit in connection with contracts or exchanges involving long time periods for the complete performance of the contract or exchange.

Classically, when gold or silver was used as the basis of a standard for exchanges, that objective was consequently achieved..” John Nash, Ideal Money, 2010

“As a thought experiment, imagine there was a base metal as scarce as gold but with the following properties:
- boring grey in colour
- not a good conductor of electricity
- not particularly strong, but not ductile or easily malleable either
- not useful for any practical or ornamental purpose

and one special, magical property:
- can be transported over a communications channel

If it somehow acquired any value at all for whatever reason, then anyone wanting to transfer wealth over a long distance could buy some, transmit it, and have the recipient sell it.” Satoshi Nakamoto, 27 August, 2010


Is Satoshi referencing pro-cooperative games in relation to gold below?

16. The value of words in Nash and Satoshi systems

Satoshi on words at work:

Nash on “words”:

Satoshi on words:

Nash on verbal complications in contracts:

17. Proof of work as a solution to Prisoner Dilemma games and the Byzantine Generals’ Problem

“The proof-of-work chain is a solution to the Byzantine Generals’ Problem. I’ll try to rephrase it in that context.” Satoshi Nakamoto, 13 November, 2008


18. Honesty in Nash and Satoshi systems

“If an appropriately honest government-like agency is to issue the actual currency, and to provide for the central bank deposits denominated in terms of that currency, for a money system, then it can also, naturally, compute the indexes that would measure the presence or absence of inflation or deflation.” John Nash, Ideal Money, 2011

“By convention, the first transaction in a block is a special transaction that starts a new coin owned by the creator of the block. This adds an incentive for nodes to support the network, and provides a way to initially distribute coins into circulation, since there is no central authority to issue them…The incentive may help encourage nodes to stay honest.” Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System, Section 6

19. Accepted agency of players in games

“With the possibility of reversal, the need for trust spreads. Merchants must be wary of their customers, hassling them for more information than they would otherwise need.” Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System, Section 1


Ideas in games, language, and trust.