Nick Szabo

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Nick Szabo
Born5 April 1964
Alma mater
Scientific career

Nicholas Szabo[1] is a computer scientist, legal scholar,[2] and cryptographer known for his research in digital contracts and digital currency. He graduated from the University of Washington in 1989 with a degree in computer science[3] and received a Juris Doctor degree from George Washington University Law School.[4] He holds an honorary professorship at the Universidad Francisco Marroquín.[5]

The phrase and concept of "smart contracts" was developed by Szabo with the goal of bringing what he calls the "highly evolved" practices of contract law and practice to the design of electronic commerce protocols between strangers on the Internet.[6][7] In 1994, he wrote an introduction to the concept and, in 1996, an exploration of what smart contracts could do. Nick Szabo proposed a digital marketplace built on these automatic, cryptographically secure processes.

Szabo argued that a minimum granularity of micropayments is set by mental transaction costs.[8][9] At one time[when?] Szabo was a proponent of "extropian" life extension techniques.[10]

Bit gold[edit]

In 1998, Szabo designed a mechanism for a decentralized digital currency he called "bit gold".[11][12] Bit gold was never implemented, but has been called "a direct precursor to the Bitcoin architecture."[13]

In Szabo's bit gold structure, a participant would dedicate computer power to solving cryptographic puzzles. In a bit gold network, solved puzzles would be sent to the Byzantine fault-tolerant public registry and assigned to the public key of the solver. Each solution would become part of the next challenge, creating a growing chain of new property. This aspect of the system provided a way for the network to verify and time-stamp new coins, because unless a majority of the parties agreed to accept new solutions, they couldn't start on the next puzzle.[14][15]

When attempting to design transactions with a digital coin, you run into the "double-spending problem." Once data has been created, reproducing it is a simple matter of copying and pasting. Most digital currencies solve the problem by relinquishing some control to a central authority, which keeps track of each account's balance. This was an unacceptable solution for Szabo. "I was trying to mimic as closely as possible in cyberspace the security and trust characteristics of gold, and chief among those is that it doesn't depend on a trusted central authority," he said.[11]

Satoshi Nakamoto speculation[edit]

On governance

"Blockchain governance generally comes in only three varieties:(1) Lord of the Flies, (2) lawyers, or (3) ruthlessly minimized." Someone asked, "Why ruthless?" and Szabo wrote, "Otherwise the children or the lawyers will win."

Nick Paumgarten, The New Yorker[16]

Szabo was active in pre-Bitcoin "bit gold" technologies and is viewed as a potential Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin. Although Szabo has repeatedly denied it, people have speculated that he is Nakamoto.[17] Research by financial author Dominic Frisby provided circumstantial evidence but, as he admits, no proof exists that Satoshi is Szabo.[18] In a July 2014 email to Frisby, Szabo said "I'm afraid you got it wrong doxing me as Satoshi, but I'm used to it."[19]

Nathaniel Popper wrote in The New York Times that "the most convincing evidence pointed to a reclusive American man of Hungarian descent named Nick Szabo." In 2008, prior to the release of bitcoin, Szabo wrote a comment on his blog about the intent of creating a live version of his hypothetical currency.[3]


  1. ^ "Szabó" is a common surname in Hungary, meaning tailor.
  2. ^ Ridley, Matt (4 December 2017). "The Bitcoin revolution is only just beginning". The Times. Retrieved 23 December 2017. the legal scholar and computer scientist Nick Szabo
  3. ^ a b Popper, Nathaniel (15 May 2015). "Decoding the Enigma of Satoshi Nakamoto and the Birth of Bitcoin". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  4. ^ Szabo, Nick (26 May 2009). "Unenumerated, "Sotomayor, Calabresi, and the Chief Justice at our moot court"". Retrieved 20 March 2019.
  5. ^ "Portada 2021".
  6. ^ Morris, David Z. (21 January 2014). "Bitcoin is not just digital currency. It's Napster for finance". Fortune. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  7. ^ Szabo, Nick (September 1997). "Formalizing and Securing Relationships on Public Networks". First Monday. 2 (9). doi:10.5210/fm.v2i9.548. S2CID 33773111. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  8. ^ Szabo, Nick. "Micropayments and Mental Transaction Costs". CiteSeerX {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  9. ^ Szabo, Nick. "The Mental Accounting Barrier to Micropayments". Archived from the original on 12 January 2013. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  10. ^ "Everybody Freeze! | Corey Pein". 8 March 2016.
  11. ^ a b Peck, Morgan (30 May 2012). "Bitcoin: The Cryptoanarchists' Answer to Cash". IEEE Spectrum. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  12. ^ Szabo, Nick (December 2005). "Bit gold". Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  13. ^ O'Leary, Martin (8 May 2015). "The Mysterious Disappearance of Satoshi Nakamoto, Founder & Creator of Bitcoin". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  14. ^ Tschorsch, Florian; Scheuermann, Björn (15 May 2015). "Bitcoin and Beyond: A Technical Survey of Decentralized Digital Currencies" (PDF). Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  15. ^ Szabo, Nick (1998). "Secure Property Titles with Owner Authority". Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  16. ^ Paumgarten, Nick (October 22, 2018). "The Prophets of Cryptocurrency Survey the Boom and Bust". The New Yorker. Retrieved February 4, 2019.
  17. ^ "Who Is The Real Satoshi Nakamoto? One Researcher May Have Found The Answer". TechCrunch. 5 December 2013. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  18. ^ Frisby, Dominic (2014) "Who is Satoshi Nakamoto?" In Bitcoin: The Future of Money?, p. 85-149. Unbound. ISBN 1783520779
  19. ^ Frisby, Dominic (2014), p. 147

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