Human pattern recognition gone wrong

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Newsweek has relaunched its print magasin. Unfortunately it has been with a questionable cover story where journalist Leah McGrath Goodman claimed to have uncovered who is behind the enigmatic Bitcoin pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto”. The unfortunate person that Goodman pointed to was the American-Japanese engineer Dorian P. Satoshi Nakamoto. Goodman has apparently harassed the man to an extent that he called the police to get her away. There is no real evidence in her story, and I believe it should be regarded as an example of “seeing patterns” – or with a word of sceptics Michael Shermer: patternicity:the tendency to find meaningful patterns in both meaningful and meaningless data”.

  1. Sharon Sergeant, who appear in the role as “Forensic Analysis” in the Newsweek article, has apparently focused on the phrases “disk space” and “Moore’s Law”. She says that the use of these phrases points to a long career in computing. If you look at Google Ngram Viewer for “disk space” you will see that the use of the phrase has topped between 1993 and 2003, while dropping to less than half in 2008. That indeed could point to someone with a long career in computing, but there are loads of people with long careers in computing. Dorian Nakamoto with a fondness for model trains is not likely the Bitcoin founder. This case seriously calls into question Sergeants ability as a forensic analyst.
  2. p2pfoundation account Satoshi Nakamoto clearly states that “I am not Dorian Nakamoto.” And the account holder is likely the original Satoshi Nakamoto.
  3. Goodman misunderstood Dorian Nakamoto when he said: “I am no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it”. He clearly explained that for AP.
  4. Bitcoin Satoshi Nakamoto has a P2P Foundation post and a paper. The language there is markedly different than the text we have for Dorian Nakamoto: 3 Amazon reviews and a number of other writings, see what Reddit found.
  5. Goodman shows no evidence that Dorian Nakamoto is able to invent and develop a cryptocurrency, – Bitcoin is no easy system to develop. Cryptography is not just an area any engineer jump into, – it is clever mathematics. Dorian Nakamoto may well have been an ok engineer in his area but surely he is not the person excelling in creating Bitcoin. Goodman shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the facets of the engineer discipline.
  6. Why on earth should an elusive cryptocurrency inventor choose his own name?

Overall the article is human pattern recognition gone awry disregarding a series of obvious evidences that point away from Dorian Nakamoto. It is an embarrassment how other media uncritically forwarded the story. One article of this kind is from Danish DR newssite.

Surely the new Newsweek got their clicks and attention, but unless they retract this story they make no sense as a serious magazine. Dorian Nakamoto needs an apology and a compensation.

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