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The Bitcoin Whitepaper May Be Hidden in MacOS, But Steve Jobs Was Not Satoshi Nakamoto

Published in October 2008, “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System” is probably the most famous whitepaper in the world. And it turns out it’s also the most widely owned and downloaded, since a copy of Bitcoin’s founding document has been included in every version of Apple’s macOS operating system since September 2018. This is the discovery of developer Andy Baio, who in a blog revealed last week that a PDF version of the paper is included in Mac operating systems, probably as a kind of “sample document.”

While the inclusion of the whitepaper remains something of a mystery, what isn’t so surprising is the Bitcoin community’s reaction. Bitcoin holders and supporters have shared the news widely as another implied example of the cryptocurrency’s increasing penetration of the mainstream, with some observers speculating that Apple “stands behind Bitcoin and its mission and this is their way of pledging support.” Even more incredibly, a relatively large number of commentators have gone so far as suggesting that legendary Apple co-founder Steve Jobs could be Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin’s own mythical creator.

Is there any credibility to such theories, beyond the obvious parallel that Steve Jobs and Satoshi Nakamoto are both widely regarded as tech visionaries? Well, the short answer is no, with the known facts surrounding Nakamoto making it unlikely that Bitcoin’s creator was Jobs. Still, in a cultural and economic landscape defined by sensationalism and social media-based virality, the Bitcoin community’s piggybacking on Apple and Jobs has proved successful in gaining yet more publicity for the original cryptocurrency.

Satoshi Nakamoto

The Bitcoin Whitepaper is in MacOS, But Apple’s Founder Didn’t Put It There

In case readers own a Mac or MacBook running macOS 10.14 (or later), they can find their PDF copy of the Bitcoin whitepaper by opening the Terminal app and entering the following command line: open /System/Library/Image\ Capture/Devices/

There’s not much else to say about the paper’s inclusion in macOS, since aside from someone else independently discovering its presence on Macs in 2021, nothing is known as to why it was put there.

The obvious answer is that the paper “was used in testing” by a developer and “they forgot to take it out.” Yet it seems that even Apple as an organization may not know why it’s in macOS, since Andy Baio updated his blog with a note that an inside source told him that “someone internally filed it as an issue nearly a year ago, assigned to the same engineer who put the PDF there in the first place, and that person hasn’t taken action or commented on the issue since.”

Steve Jobs is Satoshi Nakamoto: The Conspiracy Theories Begin

If this inside source is to be trusted, the person who hid the Bitcoin whitepaper in macOS is still working at Apple, which obviously means they can’t be Steve Jobs (who passed away in 2011).

Still, this hasn’t stopped many people from indulging in speculation that Jobs was Satoshi Nakamoto. Some have raised this possibility merely as an interesting theory, while others have come right out and seriously declared that they believe the Apple co-founder was Nakamoto.

Steve Jobs is Satoshi Nakamoto tweet.

Source: Twitter

It seems that, other than the fact that both are tech pioneers, the only piece of (circumstantial) evidence in support of this theory is a coincidence. Namely, Jobs died in October 2011, while Nakamoto posted his last message in December 2010. In other words, Nakamoto’s disappearance kind of fits with Jobs’ ailing health and eventual passing away, at least according to some people.

Steve Jobs Was Not Satoshi Nakamoto

Of course, a loose coincidence is hardly enough to lend credibility to any Steve-Jobs-is-Satoshi-Nakamoto theory. And it’s certainly not enough to counteract what is publicly known about both Jobs and Nakamoto.

For one, several people have (rightly) pointed out that Jobs couldn’t really code and was more of a presentation/marketing/vision man at Apple, whereas people such as (fellow Apple co-founder) Steve Wozniak actually built stuff. This already makes Jobs’ candidacy unlikely, yet the theory is contradicted by other facts known about Nakamoto.

Most notably, Nakamoto regularly made use of British English in his writings and posts, mixing British English spellings and phrases with instances of American English. There is no record of Jobs spending any considerable time in the United Kingdom, particularly during his youth and education (periods that would have formed his spelling habits). As such, it seems unlikely that he would have picked up the use of British English spelling.

Perhaps more damningly, a 2020 analysis of the time of Nakamoto’s various posts concluded that Bitcoin’s creator most likely resided in London while working on the cryptocurrency’s launch and early development. In the opinion of the analysis’ authors, the available timestamps are most consistent with a UK timezone, while they also remind us that Nakamoto included a headline from the Times in Bitcoin’s first block.

Satoshi Nakamoto activity timestamps.

The graph above indicates the time of Nakamoto’s posts and messages in GMT. Source: The Chain Bulletin

It’s worth pointing out that this study didn’t conclusively prove that Nakamoto resided in a UK timezone. Nonetheless, it weakens the theory that Bitcoin’s creator was Jobs (who lived in California), providing this theory’s proponents with something awkward they’d need to explain away.

There are other inconsistencies and contradictions, including the fact that Nakamoto put his birthday as April 5, 1978 on his P2P Foundation profile, when Jobs was born on February 24, 1955 (of course, anyone can easily lie about their birthdate online). More importantly, there is no known record of Jobs ever publicly showing any interest in digital money, as can be seen with other, likelier candidates such as Nick Szabo and Adam Back.

Publicity is Good for Bitcoin

Taken together, such facts and arguments make it highly unlikely that Steve Jobs was Satoshi Nakamoto.

It’s probable that the vast majority of people within the cryptocurrency community are well aware of this, yet this hasn’t stopped many of them from mentioning the theory. This is unsurprising, since Bitcoin and crypto in general has long fed on the publicity and exposure that comes from being associated (however spuriously) with higher profile, mainstream figures and corporations (e.g. Elon Musk and Tesla). The Steve-Jobs-is-Satoshi-Nakamoto theory is yet another example of this, with the theory’s dissemination via social media helping to get Bitcoin mentioned yet again in the mainstream media. (e.g. Business Insider, Forbes).

Put differently, the theory’s veracity is largely irrelevant to its primary goal of keeping Bitcoin in the public eye. And in this it has succeeded, even if we’re still no closer to solving the mystery of Satoshi Nakamoto’s real identity.

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CryptoVantage Author Simon Chandler

About the Author

Simon Chandler

Simon Chandler is a journalist based in London. He writes about technology, markets and politics, and has bylines for Forbes, Digital Trends, CCN, Wired, TechCrunch, the Verge, the Sun, the New Internationalist, and TruthOut, among many others. His Twitter handle is @_simonchandler_

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