Fascinating New Satoshi Insights Emerge From Early Malmi Emails

A recently-released set of early Satoshi emails contains some interesting insights into the network and its creator.

What do we learn from the new emails?

As the COPA trial continues, new witnesses are being called to give evidence. Last week, we heard from a number of people who were closely involved in the early days of Bitcoin, and who corresponded directly with Satoshi via email. Martti Malmi was one such person.

Since that material has now partially been made public in the trial, he has taken the step of releasing all of the emails for the community to read. It's a treasure trove for Bitcoiners, and helps shed some light on aspects of Satoshi and the choices he was making as he and a small group of people built Bitcoin and fostered its growth.

From these emails, Satoshi comes across as someone with perfect (native) English. He uses US spellings ("-ize" not "-ise") and idioms ("could care less", not "couldn't care less"), which points to him being American rather than English or, for example, Australian. Others, though, have pointed at the emails' timestamps, which may suggest he is resident in the UK, even if he is an American. Here are five insights from the emails.

1) Why Are There 21 Million BTC?

21 million BTC email

The rationale is fairly simple. 21 million was a rough estimate with the idea in mind that bitcoin might, one day, reach a level of adoption comparable to major fiat currencies. Bitcoin's high level of divisibility gave plenty of flexibility for how units were displayed. In the example above, he assumes that 1 BTC might be worth 1,000 euros.

2) What Did Satoshi Think About The Environmental Implications Of PoW?

PoW justification email

In response to a question from Malmi about carbon emissions, Satoshi recognizes ("unfortunately") that a PoW system isn't ideal, but it's the only viable option at this point. Nonetheless, he defends it on the grounds that it will decrease net carbon emissions if Bitcoin replaces a certain amount of banking infrastructure.

One thing Satoshi doesn't appear to be, is a climate change denier.

3) How Did He See The Network Developing?

Network size email

It's unclear exactly how many full nodes support the Bitcoin network, though estimates put the number in the region of 50,000. Only a subset of these are mining nodes.

Satoshi appears to think that 100,000 is a reasonable upper limit for the number of mining nodes that might join the network. We're still a long way from that number.

4) He Was Cautious About Calling Bitcoin An Investment

Early text on the Bitcoin website suggests that Satoshi did consider Bitcoin to be an investment. Hal Finney had also alluded to it in these terms. However, he was reluctant to say so explicitly, and the text was changed in June 2009.

Bitcoin as an investment email

5) There May Be People Who Know Who He Is

Donors email

One interesting fact that comes out of the emails is that Malmi was reimbursed for things like server costs via donations of cash sent through the mail ($3,500 on one occasion). He was asked to keep the identity of the sender private (presumably the sender had to provide their name for registering delivery and insurance purposes).

Satoshi also says there are donors he can approach to help with funding. Are these people he knew in person, or simply people who had made offers online? Presumably the latter, but it's an intriguing idea that there may be people he trusted enough to let in on the secret.

One last point, just in case there was any doubt. He knows what an unsigned integer is...

Unsigned integer email


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