Speculating About Satoshi’s Next Move Is Wargames for Bitcoiners
Governments frequently play out wargames in which they enact various doomsday scenarios. A nuclear missile from a rogue state; a dirty bomb detonated by a terrorist group; chemical warfare on the streets of a major city: all these scenarios, and more, have been played out countless times by army generals the world over.
Speculating about what would happen if Satoshi’s coins were to move is bitcoin’s wargames equivalent. This isn’t conjecture for the sake of it, in other words: it’s a serious exercise for an event that would have serious repercussions if it were to materialize. Suppose you wake up tomorrow to learn that one of Satoshi’s estimated one million BTC, after lying dormant for almost a decade, has moved to the Bitfinex hot wallet.
What would be your next move? Do you panic sell and jump into tether? Do you FOMO into buying more BTC? Or do you watch the blockchain and wait, trying to figure out Satoshi’s next move? It’s probably a good idea to work out your answer now, because if Satoshi’s coins ever do move from their current resting place, you’ll have mere minutes – if that – to act before the market does.
What Did Satoshi Mean by This?
To grasp where the market might move if Satoshi’s stash were to move (and why it would almost certainly be downward), it’s necessary to consider who bitcoin’s creator might be. There would appear to be three rational hypotheses:
1. Satoshi is one guy (or girl) who, for the sake of argument, we’ll call Satoshi Nakamoto.
2. Satoshi is a group of people who, for the sake of argument, we’ll call Hal Finney, Nick Szabo, and Gavin Andresen.
3. Satoshi is a government agency who, for the sake of argument, we’ll call the NSA.
Of the three scenarios, number 1 would present the biggest unknown. On the one hand, coins moving from Satoshi’s wallet would induce market panic at the prospect of one million BTC being dumped by their owner. On the other hand, if the incident were to presage Satoshi’s return from the digital wilderness with a newfound determination to contribute to Bitcoin Core’s development, and eight years of brilliant ideas to share with the world, well, that could prove very bullish for bitcoin. Especially if Satoshi then locked away the rest of his fortune in multi-sig to demonstrate his determination to never cash out.
For those who like their biblical allegories, bitcoin’s pseudonymous creator is synonymous with the book of Genesis. Satoshi promising never to flood the markets would be the equivalent of God sending a rainbow as his promise not to flood the earth, as recorded in Genesis 9.
Make no mistake, bitcoin is better without a strong leader, as Satoshi recognized right from the start. But if he was to return it would move markets like the great flood moved mountains. And, while we’re playing wargames, if Satoshi were to return and declare Bitcoin Cash to be his original vision, the flippening might happen faster than you could fit the puzzle piece to log into Binance and load up on BCH.
But enough about option 1, as we still have two alternative doomsday scenarios to play out…
If Satoshi Is a They, Anything’s Possible
If Satoshi is the work of several people, as has been theorized, the movement of a coin from one of the earliest wallets could signal dissent. It could herald acrimony in the camp, spurring one of bitcoin’s founding fathers to move their stack in readiness to sell. If that happens, expect huge volatility, another possible fork, and denials from the remaining possible Satoshis who may have been doxxed during the course of their erstwhile colleague going rogue. The only upside to this outcome is that if Satoshi is the work of three people, that could mean only one third of their one million BTC being dumped. Even so, 330k BTC being offloaded on the open market would make quite a dent.
If Spooks, No One’s Safe
The third possibility – that bitcoin was developed by a government agency such as the NSA – is perhaps the most intriguing. Bitcoin uses SHA256, a hash function partly developed by the NSA, and thus it’s not surprising that many suspect the cryptocurrency to be the agency’s handiwork. If so, that fact is immaterial in the here and now; after all, Tor was in part developed by DARPA, but that hasn’t stopped hackers, whistleblowers, and dissidents from trusting it implicitly. That’s the beauty of open source code. There are no backdoors in bitcoin because anyone can inspect its code and propose modifications to it, as developers have done over the past nine years. And yet…
And yet, if it transpired that a three-letter agency was behind bitcoin, owning 5% of the total supply would be their not-so-secret weapon. When you own one million bitcoins, you don’t need to backdoor its code: you simply wait until it starts to threaten the global financial system then begin moving coins from Satoshi’s wallet just to mess with the proles. Bitcoin crashes hard, everyone but the earliest adopters gets rekt, and trust in decentralized cryptocurrency is gone for good. If the CIA or NSA created bitcoin, moving coins from Satoshi’s wallet is crypto’s very own Mutually Assured Destruction.
First the Gutter, Then the Stars
Regardless of which of these outcomes plays out, there is some good news for bitcoin hodlers. In the short to medium term, Satoshi’s coins moving – even without them being sold on an exchange – won’t be good for the price of BTC. But in the long-term, the effects of such a maneuver are limited. Sure, it will almost certainly depress prices, but it won’t kill off the things that made bitcoin so precious in the first place: a decentralized P2P currency that no one can censor or control. Satoshi, if he or they returns, can stall bitcoin, but remains powerless to stop it. It’s too late for that: the virus has already spread. There can be no going back.