Popular speculative fiction author Neal Stephenson says suggestions he could be Satoshi Nakamoto are “flattering” but unfounded. 

Cryptonomicon or bust

Stephenson made his remarks during an interview on the Conversations with Tyler podcast on July 17 in response to a half-jocular suggestion first proposed in Reason magazine article this spring. 

The novelist told Tyler Cameron that when he had read the article, he understood that the journalist was “largely just goofing,” — yet added: “I hope nobody takes it seriously.” He explained: 

“It’s flattering that anyone imagines I’ve got the mathematical know-how needed to make something like blockchain [...] it requires a very high degree of cryptographic knowledge and coding skill that is beyond my abilities, certainly. And I definitely do not have the lifestyle of a person who has that much money.”

The Reason article had pointed to Stephenson’s impressive literacy in science, math and engineering and to his profound immersion in the technological imaginary — all of which permeates his fiction, notably the 1999 novel Cryptonomicon

It went deeper, arguing that his works display “an obsessive, technically astute fascination with cryptography, digital currency, the social and technological infrastructure of a post-government world.” This — combined with the influence of the cypherpunk movement on his early work — could perhaps bolster the reporter’s otherwise seemingly outlandish claim.

Yet despite these solid credentials and the article’s ingenious parsing of Stephenson’s fiction through the lens of the crypto world’s founding myth, the author was adamant in his denial.

When fiction becomes reality

Stephenson nonetheless gave some informed comments on the emerging sector, noting that his interest lies in the far-reaching potential of distributed ledger technologies rather than cryptocurrencies in themselves:

“When people want to talk to me about a new cryptocurrency, I tend not to be super interested in continuing that conversation. But when they want to talk to me about using distributed ledgers to enable some other kind of initiative, then frequently, it can get very interesting indeed.”

As reported, Nakamoto’s abrupt disappearance in late 2010 spawned a legend almost as famous as the cryptocurrency he, she, or they invented on Oct. 31 2008 with the publication of the Bitcoin white paper

Controversially self-proclaimed creator of Bitcoin Craig Wright has drawn much ire for his hubristic claim to fame, while Bitcoin pioneer Jeff Garzik has ventured his personal hypothesis that the coder Floridian Dave Kleiman could be the mysterious figure behind the coin.

In June, Cointelegraph reported that two satirical books published under Satoshi Nakamoto’s name had recently surfaced on Amazon.