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Bit by bit

MANASI PHADKE | Updated on January 20, 2018

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The mystery man behind the bitcoin

It’s got a rather Hindi film touch to it: Year 2008. A man believing in free trade is upset by crisis and loss of freedom everywhere. He wants to buy stock in Turkey, sell bonds in Brazil and seek underwriters in the US. But hey Bhagwan! These kambakht Central Bankers don’t think of the world as one place and force him to exchange one currency into another and yet another, often with losses. Main kya karoo, Bhagwan?

Thunder, lightning and music! And, Bhagwan, so to say, appears in his dreams to give him a “bit” of an advice. Have your own currency, beta! A currency so designed that it cannot be controlled by the jalim Central Bankers. A currency that will sustain on its own. A currency so designed that every transaction using the currency will have to be validated by other users of the peer-to-peer (P2P) system. Anyone who takes pains to validate it gets an award- the currency itself!

And thus was born the bitcoin. He was so proud of the entire system. He had already transferred some bitcoins to other wallets and these wallet holders had started the verification process. Hurrah! Once the verification was successfully done, the system would automatically generate new bitcoins as rewards. Sure it takes some time to mine bitcoins, but Bhagwan ke ghar mein der hain, andher nahi!

The new users would be awfully kicked about it and the system would go on. But hold on! We can’t afford a mega generation of bitcoins, else they’d lose keemat just like those mundane dollars! So he put automatic stabilisers to control the fault lines, so that the network itself halves the number of coins that can be mined every four years. If 2008 was “once upon a time” in the history of cryptocurrency, then 2040 will be “and they lived happily ever after”, when the total number of bitcoins will hit 21 million, their maximum number possible. Bye-bye, Central Banking problems!

Those initial 1 million bitcoins lay with him, untouched. Bitcoin’s value rose as it became more acceptable. But in the meanwhile, the ubiquitous Duniyawale, those eternal sleuths, were in search of his true identity, hidden cleverly behind his pet pseudonym, Satoshi Nakamoto. Oh, the things they wrote!

Some said he was British, given that his earlier email exchanges carried British-ized “bloody hard” type of exclamations. Twits, he thought in a wry British-contemptuous fashion, kicking a row about nothing. After all, didn’t an entire generation of Indians grow up gobbling up Enid Blytons and Wodehouses by the dozens?

And then someone managed to trace him back to the US. He laughed to see Donald Trump, the eternal opportunist, trying to convince Americans that he is the true Nakamoto. “My IQ is one of the highest and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure, it’s not your fault!” His media agency balked at such amazing gaffs and asked him to come out with more credible and less tech-savvy quotes, which is when he played his card on Hillary’s woman card.

And then the Nakamoto witch hunt went all the way back to Australia, where Craig Steven Wright claimed to be Nakamoto, offering cryptographic proofs that he was the true brain behind those blockchains. Since in the good old days of 2008, he was the only miner, Mr Nakamoto has to hold the private mathematical keys to the original mined blocks.

Little do they know, he thought. Let them play. Let them talk. Because I am I, and I do what I do.

The writer is a Pune-based economist

Published on May 12, 2016

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