As an active member of crypto-punk, a devotee and student of David Chaum, the father of cryptocurrency, and a close friend and collaborator of Bram Cohen, the founder of BT and Chia, Len’s contributions to the crypto space in just over a decade have been remarkable. It doesn’t matter if he is Satoshi Nakamoto or not, what matters is that through this article, we can touch on a bit of the past before Bitcoin, and learn about the beginnings of Bitcoin and those people and those things.
We have lost too many hackers to suicide. What if Satoshi Nakamoto was one of them?
An obituary is forever recorded on every node of the Bitcoin network. It’s a tribute to Len Sassaman, an immortal of the blockchain itself. In more ways than one, it’s a fitting tribute.
This obituary was recorded on Bitcoin Blockchain Height 138725
Len was a true cryptopunk: talented, irreverent, and idealistic. He dedicated his life to defending personal freedom through cryptography, and was a developer of PGP encryption and open source privacy technologies, and a cryptographer working on P2P networks under the leadership of blockchain inventor David Chaum.
He was also a pillar of the hacker community: a friend and influential figure to many important figures in the history of information security and cryptocurrency.
Losing Satoshi Nakamoto
By all accounts, Len was expected to be one of the most important cryptographers of his time. But on July 3, 2011, he tragically took his own life at the age of 31 after a long battle with depression and a functional neurological disorder.
His death coincided with the disappearance of Satoshi Nakamoto, the world’s most famous cryptopunk. Only 2 months before Len’s death, Satoshi Nakamoto sent his final message.
I’ve moved on to other things and may not be around in the future
I’ve moved on to other things and probably won’t be around in the future.
After 169 code submissions and 539 posts in a year, Satoshi Nakamoto disappeared into thin air without explanation. He left behind a series of unfinished business, a heated debate about people’s visions for Bitcoin, and a $64 billion Bitcoin fortune that remains untouched.
We’ve lost too many hackers to suicide: Aaron Swartz (Aaron Swartz), Gene Kan (Gene Kan), Ilya Zhitomirskiy, James Dolan (James Dolan). They are all victims of stigma, a stigma that has done great harm to technological progress itself. Imagine what the creators of Bitcoin would have brought to the world if they had died before they could see it – if that were true – and if they had received the attention and respect they deserved.
I’m hesitant to speculate on things like Satoshi Nakamoto’s identity, because the discussion in question tends to range from misleading to downright deceitful and unmartial. However, as Craig Wright fraudulently claims credit and demands to take the rights to the Bitcoin white paper, it is necessary to revisit the topic and focus the discussion on the crypto-punks who actually built Bitcoin.
Regardless of who Satoshi Nakamoto is, they are “standing on the shoulders of giants” and Bitcoin is the culmination of over a decade of research and discussion by the cryptopunk community. In this sense, Len is undoubtedly an indirect contributor. However, one wonders who actually wrote the code, ran the first node, and released it using Satoshi Nakamoto’s pseudonym.
In order to synthesize and implement the myriad ideas of Bitcoin, this person or group of people needed a unique combination of expertise, including knowledge of public key cryptography, cryptography, P2P networks, practical security architectures, and privacy techniques. They may already be deeply entrenched in the cryptopunk community and in close contact with figures who have proven to have a significant impact on cryptocurrencies. Finally, they need the intellectual conviction and hacker spirit to “roll up their sleeves” and anonymously build a real-world idea that has previously been relegated to the theoretical realm.
When I examined Len’s life, I saw many of the same characteristics that I think make Len a likely direct contributor to Bitcoin.
Given the unprecedented attention cryptocurrencies are receiving, I hope I can bring attention to an “unsung hero” to whom we should give credit. I also hope that we can reflect on the enormous importance of addressing mental illness, especially functional neurological disorders, which deserve more attention.
As a young man, Len was a self-taught technologist who gravitated towards cryptography and protocol development. Despite living in a small town in Pennsylvania, at the age of 18 Len joined the Internet Engineering Task Force, where he was responsible for the development of the TCP/IP protocol for the Internet and later the Bitcoin network.
“Always a bit of a weird kid because he was so smart,” Len was diagnosed with depression in his late teens. Unfortunately, he suffered traumatic experiences at the hands of “sadistic” psychiatrists, which can lead to distrust of so-called authority figures.
In 1999, Len moved to the Bay Area and quickly became a fixture in the codepunk community. He moved in with Bram Cohen, creator of Mojo and Bittorrent, and was a contributor to the legendary crypto-punk mailing list where Satoshi Nakamoto first announced Bitcoin. Other hackers remember him as a smart and relaxed guy who chased a squirrel around cryptopunk conferences, sped around in a sports car, and carried a “Get Out of Jail Free” card in case he was intercepted.
In San Francisco, Len works to defend personal freedom and privacy through technical and political direct action. at age 21, he made headlines for organizing protests against government surveillance and the imprisonment of hacker (Dmitri Skylarov) Dmitry Skylarov.
Early in his career, Len stood out as an authority on public key cryptography – the foundation of Bitcoin. at age 22, he spoke at conferences and founded a public key cryptography startup with noted open source activist Bruce Perens.
After the startup collapsed due to the Internet bubble, Len joined Network Associates to help develop the core of Bitcoin: the PGP cryptography. When PGP7 was released in 2001, Len built interoperability tests for the OpenPGP implementation, putting him in touch with many important crypto pioneers. Len also contributed to the GNU Privacy Guard implementation of OpenPGP and worked with PGP inventor Phil Zimmerman to invent a new cryptographic protocol.
In his introduction to Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto said he wanted Bitcoin to be “the same thing for money” as strong cryptography (i.e., PGP) is for protecting files, writing in an email.
A generation ago, multi-user time-sharing computer systems had similar problems. Before strong encryption, users had to rely on password protection…
Then, strong encryption began to be accepted by the public and trust was no longer necessary. It’s time we did the same with money.
Hal Finney (Hal Finney)
At Network Associates, Len works on PGP with Hal Finney, the second PGP developer and the man who helped create the RFC 4880 standard for OpenPGP interoperability, and the earliest and most important contributor to Bitcoin after Satoshi Nakamoto.
Finney was the first person other than Satoshi Nakamoto to contribute to the Bitcoin code and run a Bitcoin node.
Finney was the first recipient of Bitcoin (sent by Satoshi Nakamoto himself).
Finney invented the concept of reusable proof-of-work, on which Bitcoin mining is based.
Even before the release of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto was in extensive correspondence with Finney. In one of their last posts, Satoshi Nakamoto publicly expressed his respect for Finney.
Unsurprisingly, Finney was one of Satoshi Nakamoto’s most popular candidates, although this meant that Finney faked his numerous email interactions with Satoshi Nakamoto and contributed to Bitcoin under both his real name and a separate pseudonym. Finney continued to work for Bitcoin after Satoshi Nakamoto “switched careers” in 2011.
Email Forwarders (Remailers)
Len and Finney have a very rare and related skill set: they both worked as developers on Bitcoin’s predecessor, the “email forwarder”.
Proposed by David Chaum in conjunction with his cryptocurrency, email forwarders are servers designed to send messages anonymously or pseudo-anonymously. It is very commonly used when contributing to cryptopunk mailing lists, which themselves are built on distributed forwarders.
Diagram of a forwarder
Early forwarders simply forwarded messages while hiding the identity of the sender, while later protocols such as Mixmaster relied on decentralized nodes to distribute fixed-sized blocks of encrypted messages across P2P networks. Bitcoin’s architecture is very similar to that of the transponder, although its nodes are used to transmit transaction data rather than messages. in 1997, Crypto-anarchist founder Tim May even proposed a digital currency built on the transponder.
As the main developer, node operator and primary maintainer of Mixmaster, Len is a renowned expert in forwarding email technology. He also implemented similar technology as a systems engineer and security architect for Anonymizer privacy protection.
Forwarding technology is not only the direct technical ancestor of Bitcoin, but is the foundation of Bitcoin. In his article “Why Email”, Finney argues that email is the foundation of the anonymous digital economy, writing that
Forwarding technology represents the “underpinning” of this idea, the ability to exchange information privately without revealing our true identities. In this way, we can participate in transactions, display credentials, and make deals without government or corporate databases tracking our every move.
A cryptopunk vision includes the ability to participate in transactions anonymously using “digital cash”. This is another important area of anonymous email.
Transponder operators were some of the first to recognize the need for cryptocurrency: without a means of anonymous payment, operators would have to selflessly bear the cost of operation. This poses scalability issues, meaning problems such as spam and abuse. Because of this, many of the basic concepts of cryptocurrencies have come from this need, such as
In 1994, Finney proposed that transponders could be monetized by anonymous “tokens” and “cash tokens”.
Smart contracts were first discussed in the context of preventing transponders from misusing resources. Nick Szabo’s 1997 prospective paper on smart contracts specifically mentions Mixmaster.
Ian Goldberg and Ryan Lackey (both known to Len) were major figures in the forwarding technology community, working on an unfinished cryptocurrency called HINDE in 1998. Ian went on to help David Chaum develop several early Ecash clients, and Ryan went on to become the CSO of Tezos.
In his second article on Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto said
Paying to send email was the first application scenario for Bitcoin.
Initially it could be used for proof-of-work applications, for services that could be almost but not quite free.
It can already be used to send emails for a fee. The send dialog is resizable and you can enter a message of the length you like.
Adam Back (Adam Back)
Intersecting with Len in the cryptopunk mailing list community is Blockstream’s CEO Adam Back – the first person to communicate with Satoshi Nakamoto.
Adam’s own interest in cryptocurrency began with running a transponder, and he created the HashCash proof-of-work system for transponder operators to combat spam and DDOS attacks. Satoshi Nakamoto later used HashCash as the basis for Bitcoin mining.
We know that Len worked directly with Back, listing him as a contributor to a research paper as well as a Mixmaster memo. Both men have been involved in many OpenPGP implementations and are connected to each other in each other’s PGP trust networks.
Interestingly, Back himself says that Satoshi Nakamoto may be a mail forwarder developer, noting that developers would “[practice] their own techniques” to contribute to the cryptographic protocol discussion.
Unlike many of the cryptopunks discussed, we know that Len made a large number of pseudonymous contributions to cryptopunk mailing lists via mail forwarders.
(Bram Cohen’s response to this article implies that he and Hal Finney may have collaborated anonymously)
David Chaum (David Chaum) & COSIC
After graduating from high school, Len worked to support his family and never had the opportunity to attend college. Nevertheless, in 2004 he landed his “dream” at the Computer Security and Industrial Cryptography Research Group (COSIC for short) at K.U. Leuven (Belgium) job” as a researcher and doctoral student.
Although Chaum laid the foundation for the entire cryptopunk movement and all cryptocurrencies, few can claim to have worked directly with him.
Some of David Chaum’s accomplishments include.
Inventing cryptocurrencies in his 1983 paper Blind Signatures for Untraceable Payments.
Invented the blockchain, and his 1982 paper laid out all the important elements of the blockchain that were later mentioned in the Bitcoin white paper.
Founded Digicash, Inc. and created the first electronic cash system. Anonymous payments were at the heart of this vision.
“David Chaum stood in the midst of a seemingly unstoppable movement: the digitization of money, the universal feature of the digital money era was anonymity, and David Chaum believed that without this feature, we were in trouble”
While Digicash failed (in part because of its reliance on centralized systems), the second digital currency David Chaum is creating, xx coin, attempts to provide a combination of anonymity, utility, and quantum-resistant properties.
While many believe its failure proves that digital cash is not viable, Satoshi Nakamoto defends the “Old Chaumian Currencies” while acknowledging the problems caused by centralization. In his email, Satoshi Nakamoto said
Many people automatically see electronic currencies as a lost cause, because all companies have failed since the 1990s. I hope it’s clear that it’s just the centralized, controlled nature of those systems that doomed them to failure.
Len worked at COSIC in Belgium until his death in 2011. During this time he accumulated an impressive 45 papers and 20 conference committee positions.
Len’s research focused on developing privacy-enhancing protocols and codes with “real-world applicability”. His main project (with the help of Bram Cohen) was Pynchon Gate, an evolution of a forwarding technique that allows anonymous information retrieval through a network of distributed nodes, without the need for a trusted third party.
(Pynchon Gate and meta-index+bucket pool architecture)
This work is very relevant to Bitcoin: as the Pynchon Gate work progressed, Len became increasingly focused on finding solutions for Byzantine fault tolerance (aka the Byzantine General problem), which had been a major obstacle for early P2P networks.
In the context of distributed computing, Byzantine Fault Tolerance (BFT) refers to the ability of a network to remain functional in the event that a node is compromised or unreliable. Byzantine failure is one of the biggest problems a secure, decentralized cryptocurrency needs to solve, with no duplicate spending and no need to trust third parties. Satoshi Nakamoto’s most important innovation was the use of a “triple play” accounting system for the blockchain, introduced by David Chaum, to solve this problem.
During the development of Bitcoin from 2008-2010, Len became increasingly active in financial cryptography. He joined the International Association of Financial Cryptography and spoke at the Financial Cryptography and Data Conference, where he also held a committee seat. The latter was founded by Robert Hettinga, a prominent early advocate of digital cash, which was a major topic at the conference.
Satoshi Nakamoto as an academic
Many clues suggest that Satoshi Nakamoto has been working in the academic field throughout the development of Bitcoin, an idea supported by Bitcoin Foundation founder Gavin Andersen, who said.
“I think he’s an academic, maybe a post-doc, maybe a professor, and he just doesn’t want to be noticed”.
Satoshi Nakamoto’s code contributions and comments increase heavily during summer and winter breaks, but taper off in late spring and at the end of the year, when as an academic one should be taking final exams and/or grading.
The following chart shows the frequency of Satoshi Nakamoto’s statements on bitcointalk.org
The idiosyncratic construction of the Bitcoin code also suggests that Satoshi Nakamoto has an academic background and the quality of the code is considered “smart but sloppy”, eschewing traditional software development practices such as unit testing, but demonstrating top-notch security architecture and an expert understanding of cryptography and economics.
Whoever did this had a deep understanding of cryptography… They’ve read academic papers, they have a keen intellect, and they combine these concepts in a truly new way.
When Dan Kaminsky, a renowned security researcher, first audited Satoshi Nakamoto’s code, he tried to test it from nine different security points, but was surprised to find that Satoshi Nakamoto had already anticipated and patched all of these possible vulnerabilities.
“I came up with a lot of nice bugs, but every time I went to the code, there was a line to fix the problem… I’ve never seen anything like it.”
This may indicate that Satoshi Nakamoto and Kaminsky share a common set of experience and expertise in information security. Coincidentally, Len and Kaminsky co-authored and presented a paper demonstrating methods for attacking public key infrastructures.
In addition, the Bitcoin white paper was published in a format rarely seen on cryptopunk mailing lists: a LaTeX-formatted research paper with academic features such as an abstract, conclusion, and MLA citations. Other proposals on the mailing list, such as Bitgold and b-money, are unstructured blog posts.
Satoshi Nakamoto in Europe
Since COSIC is based in Leuven (Leuven), Len was living in Belgium during the development of Bitcoin. This is important because some facts suggest that Satoshi Nakamoto was in Europe, which was the main focus of the New Yorker’s early investigation.
Satoshi Nakamoto’s writing exhibits British English spelling and word choice features such as “blood difficult,” “flat,” “maths,” grey,” and the dd/mm/yyyy date format. Also, Satoshi Nakamoto uses the euro instead of the pound.
Bitcoin’s Genesis block also includes a headline from The Times that day (“The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks”). This headline was specific to the paper edition, which is distributed only in the U.K. and Europe. in 2009, The Times was a top 10 newspaper in Belgium and “is heavily used by academics and researchers due to its wide circulation in libraries and detailed indexing”.
These clues leave us with a paradox: it suggests that Satoshi Nakamoto is European, but the people who have the necessary skills and exposure to the major influences of Bitcoin are likely to be American. Much of the crypto-punk community has gathered through conferences and meetups, which is why there are many people from the United States, especially San Francisco. A person who is going to get the most advanced professional information security and crypto experience is likewise concentrated in the US.
Oddly enough, even though Len is American, he uses the same British English as Satoshi Nakamoto. See the following chart.
An analysis of Satoshi Nakamoto’s posting history shows that he is a European “night owl” who works on bitcoin during the day when he returns from work or school. At one point, Satoshi Nakamoto also said that the increase in mining difficulty happened “yesterday,” which would not be true if they lived in the United States.
Assuming Satoshi Nakamoto led a life outside of Bitcoin, such as during work/school, when he was largely away from his home computer… If Satoshi Nakamoto lives in the UK during daylight saving time, he works mostly at night, often until the early hours of the morning.
When we examined Len’s Twitter history, we saw that the timestamps of Satoshi Nakamoto’s posts and code commits closely correlated with Len’s own late-night activity (as shown below)
While not the first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin is the first digital currency based on a fully P2P distributed network. The importance of this was emphasized when Satoshi Nakamoto first mentioned Bitcoin.
I’ve been working on a new electronic cash system that is completely peer-to-peer, with no trusted third parties.
To build Bitcoin, Dan Kaminsky says that Satoshi Nakamoto needed to “understand economics, cryptography and P2P networks,” and Len had an unusually early exposure to all three and their applications in digital currencies.
(BT compared to Napster by design)
Len had the foresight to tell Bram: “BitTorrent will make him greater than Napster founder Sean Fanning”. Satoshi Nakamoto also later referred to Napster when explaining the need for a completely decentralized network.
Governments are good at cutting the heads off of centrally controlled networks like Napster, but pure P2P networks like Gnutella and Tor seem to be holding their own.
Coincidentally, Len and Tor’s founder Roger Dingledine were both involved in the Mixminion remailer protocol, co-presented at the Black Hat conference, and founded the HotPETS conference together.
In 2002, Len and Bram co-founded CodeCon, a conference focused on “implementing highly practical projects in code”. At CodeCon 2005, Hal Finney introduced reusable Proof of Work via a modified BitTorrent client that sent P2P digital currency.
One reviewer described this as.
… The world’s first transparent server that facilitates a distributed, cooperative network of RPOW servers.
Digital currencies were a prominent theme at the first CodeCon, which included a demonstration involving Adam Back’s HashCash and Zooko showcasing Mnet, a fully open source and decentralized successor to MojoNation. Mojo is not tied to a single company and can be independently audited, two things Satoshi Nakamoto believes are crucial .
(Screenshot of Mnet client)
MojoNation co-founders Zooko Wilcox and Jim McCoy have also proven to be an inspiration for Bitcoin and cryptocurrency pioneers. When Bitcoin v0.1 was released on Bitcoin.org, Satoshi Nakamoto included a link to a blog by Zooko, who went on to create the privacy-focused cryptocurrency Zcash, and who created the oft-discussed “Zooko’s triangle” framework.
(Len gave a talk at Dartmouth shortly before his death)
Just as Len built on the ideas that came before him, one can sense that he was committed to building something that would outlast him, and that’s one of the reasons he was committed to open source and open knowledge.
It’s our legacy, these studies that we’re doing, these ideas that we have that are leading to knowledge that no human has had the opportunity to have in history, and that’s what we’re going to pass on to future generations. We need to make sure that we’re not backed into a corner where we can’t disseminate this research to others, that it’s not locked away in the safes of intellectual property lawyers.
When Len died in 2011, it represented a huge loss for cryptopunk and the tech community as a whole, a fact reflected in the flood of memories and condolences that subsequently poured in. One comment struck me: from pablos08’s Hacker News post:
Len and I became friends, we were cyberpunks together, and at the time it was a crazy field. We were reimagining our world, full of cryptographic systems that would mathematically enforce the freedoms we cherished. Anonymous forwarding of emails to preserve speech without fear of retribution; onion routers to ensure that no one can censor the Internet; digital cash for a radically free economy. We systematically decentralize and distribute everything.
We imagine complex and esoteric threats to solve the problems we might one day encounter; we construct futuristic protocols to defend against them. All of this is a highly academic geek utopian activity. I tend to keep it that way, but Len wants to get his hands dirty.
Cypherpunks write Code.
Posted by:CoinYuppie，Reprinted with attribution to:https://coinyuppie.com/latest-reasoning-ryan-sassaman-may-be-satoshi-nakamoto/
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