Is this the guy or isn't he?
It's a question that has rocked the L.A. area for the last two days, after Newsweek reported that a local man named Satoshi Nakamoto is the same person who helped put the digital currency Bitcoin on the map in 2009.
An Illinois Institute of Technology professor, Shlomo Engelson Argamon, says that the written and spoken words of the Temple City man known by the nickname Dorian don't seem to match up with the written communication from the erstwhile Bitcoin founder who used his birth name:
"There are clear reasons to believe he is not the author," the professor says.
Dorian, as we'll call him, has left some evidence of how he speaks and writes. Born in Japan, his English, both verbal and written, is not 100 percent fluent, says Argamon, a Yale computer science Ph.D. whose expertise includes computer "natural language processing."
Argamon has taken a look at them and finds them fairly inconsistent with the writings of Satoshi Nakamoto, who posted a paper to help introduce Bitcoin in 2009 and then left two comments on the same platform, the latest coming this week when that Nakamoto claimed not to be Dorian.
Is it possible that Dorian simply writes better under a Bitcoin persona?
It's possible, but Argamon addressed a few points in a conversation with us this afternoon:
-If he's faking having bad English, it would be strange.
"The fundamental issue in that scenario is, could he deviously pretend to have lousy broken English in writing and speaking while he's actually quite fluent," the professor says. "The other way around [pretending to write well] doesn't make sense; how would he write fluently?"
-Someone could be writing for him:
"The founder of Bitcoin seemed to do things on his own," the professor said. "If there was somebody else involved, you would think you would see indications of that. Based on the writing in the academic paper, generally speaking, if you have two people collaborating on writing an article there will be ... some evidence that some sections were written by one and others written by another. There aren't any indications of that in the original Bitcoin paper. It is very likely the paper was written by a single individual."
-The Bitcoin paper was written by an academic, which Dorian does not appear to be. (Though he is reported to be a physicist who did classified work for a government contractor, there is no indication Dorian was a professor or academic researcher).
"The paper itself is written in very clear academic English," Argamon said. "Normally the only person who writes in that fluid academic style at the least had a Ph.D. and probably had a career in academia.
As for the writings of Dorian, they seem to show that "he doesn't have a very high level of academic experience," the prof says.
You can judge for yourself. In his email to Metro, Dorian writes:
i vote for underground railing for above project. the project should be done so the business shops's income from clients would be minimally affected.
good secruity system against usage of rail as a get away means from the low income generated theives/criminals from area of east LA et. al must be also put in place regardless of the rail passage chosen.
Now, here's the introduction to the Bitcoin paper:
I've developed a new open source P2P e-cash system called Bitcoin. It's completely decentralized, with no central server or trusted parties, because everything is based on crypto proof instead of trust. Give it a try, or take a look at the screenshots and design paper ...
Of course, some people write better than they speak, especially if they're crafting documents for an academic setting. That can especially be the case with Asian immigrants, who can have a remarkable grasp of technical English while still struggling verbally.
It's definitely possible to be more fluent in writing than in speaking. That's often the case. That's an issue that needs to be taken into account. But here we have writing versus writing.
Speaking about Newsweek's own research, the professor says "much of what they do is to discount reasons to disbelieve the authorship rather than to give reasons that he is the author."
One of the key consistencies between Dorian and Nakamoto of Bitcoin fame is that they both use two spaces after a period ends their sentences. But it's a practice used "by millions," Argamon says.
What about Dorian's response to a Newsweek reporter? The Temple City man is quoted as saying:
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I am no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it. It's been turned over to other people. They are in charge of it now. I no longer have any connection.
But the professor says, "His response might have been to the a possible first part of the question. We can't know what that response means without knowing exactly what the question was."
"There's not enough data to have a clear assessment either way," he says.