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Australian Man Says He Is Bitcoin's Founder


Big news this morning in the world of technology, an Australian entrepreneur has come out as the founder of the Bitcoin. Craig Wright says he's the man who invented the digital alternate of currency. He revealed his identity in interviews with the BBC, GQ and The Economist. To talk more about this, we are joined now by The Economist technology editor. His name is Ludwig Seigele, thanks so much for being with us.

LUDWIG SIEGELE: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: Tell us what you know about Craig Wright. He's someone people who've long suspected is the guy who could be behind Bitcoin, right?

SIEGELE: Yes, he was outed against his will in December. Somebody hacked his computer and sent the files to Wired and Gizmodo - two websites. And they did a story, but then people kind of quickly poked holes into that story. And it kind of sounded as if Mr. Wright kind of had laid out breadcrumbs, so people would figure that or find that he's Satoshi Nakamoto.

MARTIN: And that is, of course, the name that he used as a moniker when he set this up allegedly anonymously.

SIEGELE: Satoshi Nakamoto is the creator of Bitcoin. He wrote the white paper - the academic paper that underlies the whole system. He wrote the first code, the program that powers the system. But the problem is nobody has ever met him, only communicated with him via email. And at some point in 2010, 2011, he kind of disappeared. And since then, an entire kind of Satoshi hunting industry has emerged.

MARTIN: And since then, others have come up and started picking up the coding where he left off. There was a lot of hype around Bitcoin as a payment method. But has it taken off anywhere?

SIEGELE: I mean, it's - yeah, it's about the bubble. The price went over $1,000 per Bitcoin. That kind of - that collapsed when Mt. Gox, one of the main - or the main exchange collapsed, but it has held up. The price has recovered and what - the most important thing is the underlying technology called - a company called the Blockchain is actually quite useful for other things.

MARTIN: Like what?

SIEGELE: For example, you can bake in land titles. You can transfer other types of assets. So it's - in a way, it's a trust machine. It's a hypersecure database which can be used for many purposes.

MARTIN: So is there any chance, though, that we could see a future where I buy my morning cup of coffee with Bitcoin?

SIEGELE: Yes, that may be possible. But that's rather unlikely because Bitcoin as a currency at least, I think, will always be kind of a minority, a currency a bit like gold. But the thing I should add is though - so Mr. Craig Wright has outed himself, but they have been immediately hackers or developers or people who know much more about this than I do. I found out that actually the cryptographic proof he has offered to show or to prove that he is Satoshi Nakamoto doesn't hold up.

MARTIN: So there are still questions about whether he is indeed the creator of Bitcoin?

SIEGELE: Yes, there are big questions. And if you read my article, some of them are explained. Others have come up so I - at this point, I would hold my judgment whether he is really Satoshi Nakamoto.

MARTIN: Ludwig Seigele, he's the technology editor for The Economist. Thanks so much for talking with us about this.

SIEGELE: OK, thanks a lot. Have a good day. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.