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Michael Clear Says He Didn’t Invent Bitcoins, So Stop Emailing Him, k?

by Adriana Lee | April 12, 2013

ManInShadow

Bitcoins are up! Bitcoins are down. There’s a bubble! The bubble’s bursting. No matter how you slice it, bitcoins have become something like media darlings lately, with numerous headlines fixed on it — from finance types trying to zero in on how seriously to take the virtual money, to articles about bitcoin millionaires. Heck, even the Winklevoss twins can’t help but horn in on the action, claiming to own 1 percent of the world’s supply.

(For a primer on what this digital currency is, click here for our “Intro to Bitcoin” post.) 

Despite all this attention — or perhaps because of it — the bitcoin inventor dubbed “Satoshi Nakamoto” hasn’t surfaced. Writer Joshua Davis, working on an article for The New Yorker, tried to crack the mystery of who the creator was last year, but came up empty.

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However, Davis did list some possible candidates in his article — including one Mr. Michael Clear, an Irish computer science student who had been “hired by Allied Irish Banks to improve its currency-trading software, and [who] co-authored an academic paper on peer-to-peer technology.” Clear, who was also knowledgeable about economics and cryptography, had both the cred and the smarts to pull this off. Thing is, he didn’t do it — or at least that’s what he told Davis.

And then he goes and casts doubt on his story by remarking: “I’m not Satoshi, but even if I was I wouldn’t tell you.” (Insert raised eyebrow here.) Well, if that’s his denial, then he needs to work on it a bit more. He does better on his own blog, where he has denied it a couple more times. The latest occurred last week, when Clear — desperate to stop all the emails flooding his inbox — updated his blog to refute the idea that he is the genius behind bitcoins.

I feel bad adding more because I know it’s such a trivial thing but it might lead to fewer emails.

I’m a humble research student with an interest in crypto; I am very far from being any kind of expert in anything. As mentioned earlier, I never worked in a bank, and I’m certainly not an economist (I’ve received emails to this effect :)). My interest in bitcoin stemmed from its design and its cryptographic properties etc. Josh originally contacted me at Crypto 2011 about a paper I was involved with related to p2p, and I met up with him out of curiosity as to why he would be interested. For about 20 minutes we talked about that. When bitcoin came up, I remember we had a brief casual chat; I was naturally startled when he thought I could be Satoshi, and there was some humor and regrettable mistakes on my part.

However, various misinterpretations and losses of context along with some misleading summaries in further reports unfortunately helped trigger the whole thing… There are minor things in the article that also give off a different impression e.g: brand of glasses (frames) (Incidentally, as much as its seems silly to admit it, I wasn’t even aware of their brand until the article 🙂 – they were a present etc.) Anyway, I could go on about other aspects, but it’s such a trivial thing to focus on. Sorry to have bored you but hopefully this page helps to clear some things up.

Clear seems almost sheepish here, whereas the hacker who invented the new form of currency that has caught worldwide attention would have every reason to boast some swag and bravado. Then again, maybe the humility is a ruse. And if it is, it’s a masterful charade.

But either way, Clear would really, really like it if everyone would stop emailing him, okay?


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Adriana Lee

Adriana is the resident writer-slash-culture vulture who has written about everything from smartphones, tablets, apps, accessories, and small biz...Adriana is the resident writer-slash-culture vulture who has written about everything from smartphones, tablets, apps, accessories, and small biz...


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