Satoshi Nakamoto, Puzzle and Paradox
Two years ago, artist Marguerite Christine (a.k.a. Coin_Artist) published a series of paintings called “The Legend of Satoshi Nakamoto”. Each painting represents a cryptographic puzzle hiding the key to a Bitcoin stash.
Despite many attempts by puzzle enthusiasts to crack it, her last painting remains a mystery and the 4.87 bitcoin ($20000) reward is still unclaimed.
To give you an idea of the potential complexity, it took two weeks for a dedicated group of 20 talented people to solve her previous puzzle. Their journey to the solution took them through 14 riddles, from Morse code to uncovering a QR code on a Minecraft Server to a double cryptographic hash on the “Tomb of Horrors” – Da Vinci Code-esque!
At the time of publication, the value hidden in her painting was roughly $1200 – it has risen by 1560%. This could make for a worthy treasure hunt.
We could be tempted to compare the painting series with the picture book Masquerade by Kit Williams. The book spawned a whole lot of treasure hunts and a genre. But in Coin_Artist’s case it goes much further because the real puzzle, the conundrum, is the technology itself.
Drawing from The Past
Comparative literature was one of my favorite topics during my studies in France. Despite a quasi-exclusive focus on post-war literature in Europe, the course was an opportunity to discover “foreign artists”. It was also, due to the need for context, an opportunity to rewind time – from the poems of Robert Graves to the paintings of Paul Nash to the Art of William Blake.
In his biography, Osbert Burdett states, “Blake will forever remain a poet and a puzzle”.
Certainly, Blake was a puzzle to his contemporaries – unsolved, misunderstood. He died in poverty next to his wife who is said to have borrowed money for his burial.
His paintings are now selling for millions of dollars. A few visionary Ancients had built on Blake’s legacy, allowing it to grow through the romanticism and neo-romanticism eras which later impregnated our modern societies.
We could draw a parallel with David Shaum, inventor of the first digital currency along with the Blind Signature Technology, whose company DigiCash had to file for bankruptcy. Only a few precursors would – this early – grasp and appreciate such innovative use of technology.
We had to wait for Satoshi Nakamoto, a decade later, for the world to realise the radical ideas behind distributed ledgers.
Whether the current digital currencies are here to stay is another debate. Is Bitcoin the Netscape Navigator of the early Internet or is it more? Distributed ledgers present a paradigm shift which will certainly give birth to even more innovation.
Puzzle & Paradox
The quintessence of true puzzles is to be misunderstood at first – denigrated even. Once solved, they may change the world, radically. And I say “may” because getting the reward is one thing, using it for the right purpose is another one – by analogy, Nazi Germany also drew from Romanticism.
Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born,
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.
Auguries of Innocence. William Blake. 1803
Paradoxes are puzzles’ best friends. Digital currencies could be used to reduce misery by achieving global and equal access to money – banking the unbanked. They could also be used to bring more misery via the uncontrolled speculations of those “born to sweet delight”.
My 2 satoshi.