As Bit­coin surges in value, Elon Musk de­nies he's its mys­te­ri­ous in­ven­tor

The Guardian Australia - - Technology - Ed­ward Hel­more in New York

Elon Musk is a lot of things. Bil­lion­aire, space ad­ven­turer, trans­port rev­o­lu­tion­ary, but not, he says, the in­ven­tor of Bit­coin, the cryp­tocur­rency coin that crossed the $10,000 val­u­a­tion thresh­old early on Tues­day.

Musk, co-founder of PayPal, Tesla boss and CEO of Space Ex­plo­ration Tech­nolo­gies, re­sponded to a blog­post cir­cu­lat­ing on sev­eral cryp­tocur­rency sites claim­ing that he is Satoshi Nakamoto, the mys­te­ri­ous creator of bit­coin who has never been con­clu­sively iden­ti­fied.

“Not true,” Musk said on Tues­day in a tweet. “A friend sent me part of a BTC [bit­coin] a few years, but I don’t know where it is.”

Musk was re­spond­ing to a post on Medium last week in which writer Sahil Gupta floated the idea that based on Musk’s his­tory of in­no­va­tion across tech dis­ci­plines, his un­der­stand­ing of eco­nomics and cryp­tog­ra­phy and his cod­ing abil­i­ties, it was pos­si­ble that he was the au­thor of the orig­i­nal doc­u­ment that pro­posed a peer-to-peer elec­tronic cash sys­tem.

The spec­u­la­tion comes as Bit­coin’s as­ton­ish­ing rise in val­u­a­tion is prompt­ing new warn­ings of an as­set bub­ble. Bit­coin’s value has surged more than ten­fold this year and has jumped by 20% in the last three days alone. The to­tal value of bit­coin in cir­cu­la­tion now ex­ceeds the stock mar­ket val­ues of com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Boe­ing, Mc­Don­ald’s and Dis­ney.

In his post, Gupta sug­gested that even if Musk is not the orig­i­na­tor, the sec­tor needs his ex­per­tise. Mem­ber­ship of Coin­base, one of the largest plat­forms for trad­ing cryp­tocur­rency, has al­most tripled to 13 mil­lion in the past year.

“If Elon is Satoshi, it seems like this knowl­edge would be­come pub­lic at some point any­way. But if it were pub­lic now, Elon could of­fer guid­ance as the cur­rency’s ‘found­ing fa­ther’.”

The dizzy­ing surge in val­u­a­tion is re­port­edly melt­ing the re­solve of cryp­tocur­ren­cies’ fiercest crit­ics.

In Septem­ber, the JPMor­gan CEO, Jamie Di­mon, said if he found em­ploy­ees trad­ing cryp­tocur­rency, he would “fire them in a se­cond, for two rea­sons: It is against our rules and they are stupid, and both are dan­ger­ous”.

Di­mon is now said be con­sid­er­ing sys­tems to help clients trade con­tracts linked to the cryp­tocur­rency.

Musk mean­while is press­ing ahead with ef­forts to rev­o­lu­tion­ize trans­port sys­tems. His pri­vate space­launch com­pany SpaceX, cur­rently val­ued at $21.5bn, is ramp­ing up its launch sched­ule of rock­ets that are able to take off, de­liver a pay­load into space, then land back on a plat­form sta­tioned in the At­lantic, to ev­ery two to three weeks.

In May, SpaceX laid out plans to put 4,425 satel­lites into space to pro­vide global high-speed in­ter­net. The SpaceX CEO said he wants to land at least two cargo ships on Mars by 2022.

Musk’s more pro­saic, earthly am­bi­tions, also con­tinue to un­fold. Ear­lier this month, Musk un­veiled Tesla’s first elec­tric semi-truck.

With typ­i­cal hy­per­bole, Musk vowed that the new truck would “blow your mind clear out of your skull and into an al­ter­nate di­men­sion”.

The new ve­hi­cle, he claims, will re­duce the over­all cost to 20% less per mile com­pared with diesel trucks and boast faster ac­cel­er­a­tion, bet­ter up­hill per­for­mance, a 500-mile (805km) range at max­i­mum weight at highway speed, and “ther­monu­clear ex­plo­sion-proof glass” in the wind­shield.

But the in­ven­tor of Bit­coin? Nope.

Elon Musk un­veils the Road­ster 2 in Hawthorne, Cal­i­for­nia, on 16 Novem­ber 2017. Pho­to­graph: Reuters

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