If We Told You Neal Stephenson Invented Bitcoin, Would You Be Surprised? – Reason.com

Consider the possibility that Neal Stephenson is Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous inventor of Bitcoin.

If he is, it would hardly be his only accomplishment: Stephenson is the author of some of the most prescient and beloved science fiction of the last 30 years, including Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, and Seveneves. He has been both disciple and muse to the most powerful men in tech—the inventors of the internet and the iPad, for starters. He was an early employee at Blue Origin, the private space firm founded by Jeff Bezos, and has worked with the Long Now Foundation to promote optimistic science fiction designed to lead to actual technological innovation. He is the sort of writer whose novels include descriptions of vast nanotech defense systems, as well as of incredibly elaborate methods for eating Cap’n Crunch, complete with a special spoon. He keeps his head shaved and wears a gray-streaked goatee, a look that is part heavy metal wizard, part monk.  

I am not saying that Neal Stephenson is Satoshi Nakamoto. What I am saying is: Would it really be surprising if he were?

That this outlandish possibility even exists suggests the ingenuity of his mind and the depth of his influence. It’s plausible that Neal Stephenson invented, or helped invent, Bitcoin, because that is simply the sort of thing that Neal Stephenson might do.


For nearly three decades, Stephenson’s novels have displayed an obsessive, technically astute fascination with cryptography, digital currency, the social and technological infrastructure of a post-government world, and Asian culture. His novel Anathem is, among other things, an elaborate investigation into the philosophy of knowledge. His new book, Fall; or, Dodge in Hell, pursues these themes literally beyond the grave, into the complications of estate planning and cryogenics. Satoshi Nakamoto sounds like a Neal Stephenson character name. Satoshi Nakamoto’s initials are SN; Neal Stephenson’s are NS.

Of course, Stephenson is far from the…

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