Fuck Your Satoshi (Op-Ed)

“But you know what the fuck I think is just pathetic and gay, When niggas speculate what the fuck ‘Pac would say, You don’t know shit about a dead man’s perspective, And talking shit’ll get your neck bone disconnected.” – Immortal Technique, Obnoxious, Revolutionary Vol. 2

We cannot let whispers from long dead men dictate our future. Satoshi Nakamoto, whoever he, she or they were, is gone. It is time to let him disappear not just from our message boards and mailing lists, but also our arguments, debates and philosophies on how we should move forward.

The r in the second word of the title of this article isn’t a typo. If I met the real Satoshi Nakamoto I wouldn’t tell him to fuck off, I’d hold him in the kind of reverence appropriate for a living legend. I would take what he would have to say with great weight, but Satoshi Nakamoto isn’t walking through that door, no matter how often his email is hijacked.

What I mean by “Fuck Your Satoshi” is fuck your idea of what Satoshi was and what his opinions would be today.

There are many theories on why Satoshi left. Some say he fled CIA attention, others that he feared the public scrutiny that was already building at the time, still others take a more sinister approach, arguing that he was killed or threatened into leaving. Why he left isn’t important. What he left is. His old position has been recently called “the benevolent dictator” of the Bitcoin core code. He created it and the majority of the community deferred to him. While other experts in the field would debate and argue with him, there was no doubt, at that time, that Satoshi Nakamoto was leading Bitcoin’s direction.

That is what he left behind. There are very few things we can be sure of when it comes to Satoshi Nakamoto, and I won’t be a hypocrite and try to speak for him by saying that he left so Bitcoin could grow on its own, even though that would support my argument. I don’t know why he left. What we do know is that, whatever the reason, he walked away from that position of power. It is harmful to the free flowing exchange of ideas to attempt to put him back on that pedestal by using quotes from Satoshi to end arguments or justify certain actions.

We don’t know what Satoshi would think about the blocksize debate, or services like ChangeTip and Coinbase, or the Foundation or the governance of the code or any issue that has come up since his 2010 departure from the public view.

We can speculate all we want, but even if we can pin down what we believe he would think, why would it matter? Satoshi created an amazing technology, but should any one person’s opinion dictate how we utilize that technology? Do we care what the inventor of the hammer thought we should build with it? Do we consult Thomas Edison’s personal philosophy before we run electricity through computer chips? Bitcoin is, above all else, a tool. It is a tool that can build other tools, and it is a tool that may disrupt industries in ways we cannot yet imagine, but it is still a tool and people can use it as they see fit.

It will be the market, not cherry picked quotes from a pseudonymous entity that vanished years ago, that will decide which of these tools will be useful. If someone creates a centralized system that works better than a similar decentralized system and the first one becomes more popular, then the market has decided that the centralized system is preferred (due to ease of use, or whatever reason) to the decentralized one. No amounts of quotes from Satoshi, Thomas Jefferson, Tupac, Elvis, Jesus or any other figures from history will change that.

Discounting something because you believe Satoshi wouldn’t have liked it is no different than writing something off because you believe Elvis wouldn’t have liked it. What would Elvis, or slave-owning Thomas Jefferson have thought about Bitcoin? It doesn’t matter and we don’t care because it is impossible for long dead men to have an opinion on something that didn’t exist until they left this plane of existence.

Satoshi, is similarly gone. He may still live somewhere, his true identity may even be someone we know, but Satoshi Nakamoto as he was is gone, he left, we need to let him go.

Humans have a tendency to lionize their leaders, especially after they die or retire. In certain circles, speaking ill of the Founding Fathers of America approaches a sacrilegious level insult. In others, it’s Jesus or another religious deity. In Wisconsin, saying anything that could be perceived as negative about Vince Lombardi is the quickest way to get a crowd of cheese head wearing maniacs hunting you down like Frankenstein.

But just because something appears to be human nature doesn’t mean we should succumb to it. We should never ignore history, and that includes bitcoin history, because it gives us clues about what to expect in the future, but nor should we bow to the people who lived in those times. The people we so often love to quote were just people, with human flaws. That applies to Satoshi Nakamoto as much as it applies to Martin Luther King, Thomas Jefferson, TuPac or Vince Lombardi.

If you wish to make the argument that service X is too centralized or company Y accepting bitcoin goes against your ideological ideas of what bitcoin should be about, that is fine. But let’s not pretend that we know what Satoshi Nakamoto’s opinions would be in any given situation and even in situations where we could make a guess at his position, let’s not pretend his comments are rules we have to live by, like they came from a digital Mount Sinai.

Humans tend to make the same mistakes throughout history. One of those is the excessive glorification of our dead leaders. The Internet and Bitcoin is changing the course of human history, we should make an effort to leave the old habits behind.

Bitcoin is bitcoin because nobody truly controls it. Stop trying to give control to a dead man. He can’t take the throne, even if he wanted it.

[Photo Adapted From: classy and Enrique Dans]
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