The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences is, as with most Nobel prizes, quite a big deal. Past laureates are a who's who of economics — and starting in 2016, that list could include the inventor of Bitcoin. Assuming, of course, someone works out who that is.
Satoshi Nakamoto is the widely recognised inventor of Bitcoin. They published a 2008 paper outlining the concept, and wrote the original software the underpins the internet's most popular digital currency. But Satoshi Nakamoto is a pseudonym, and despite some intense on-and-offline digital snooping, no-one knows anything at all about Nakamoto.
That hasn't stopped UCLA Professor of Finance Bhagwan Chowdhry from nominating Nakamoto for the 2016 Nobel Prize in Economics. In a Huffington Post article, Chowdhry explains his choice:
The invention of bitcoin — a digital currency — is nothing short of revolutionary...it offers many advantages over both physical and paper currencies. It is secure, relying on almost unbreakable cryptographic code, can be divided into millions of smaller sub-units, and can be transferred securely and nearly instantaneously from one person to any other person in the world with access to internet bypassing governments, central banks and financial intermediaries such as Visa, Mastercard, Paypal or commercial banks eliminating time delays and transactions costs.
Regardless of individual perception of Bitcoin — flawed drug-dealer currency or the ultimate economic tool of personal liberty — its invention is both significant and very clever.
There's no real precedent for awarding the Nobel Prize to an unknown person (or possibly even group of people), so it's difficult to say how the Prize committee will deal with the nomination. But even so, the fact that Bitcoin and Nobel Prize in Economics are being talked about in the same breath is significant all on its own.