Nick Szabo is a computer scientist, cryptographer and legal scholar who played a pivotal role in the development of ideas that are commonly used in the blockchain and cryptocurrency space. Szabo is credited with coining the term ‘smart contracts’ and, in 1998, designed “Bit Gold”, a decentralized digital currency that, although never released, is considered to be the forerunner of Bitcoin.
Szabo’s Bit Gold possesses much of the same design that Bitcoin uses to establish a feasible decentralized network - including the solving of cryptographic puzzles and requiring majority consensus for the “blockchain” to continue.
In his 1997 paper on smart contracts, titled “The Idea of Smart Contracts”, Szabo argues that the “formalization of our relationships - especially contracts - provides the blueprint for ideal security”. This idea, and the paper in general, is an important principle guiding the current development of smart contract platforms.
Szabo’s expertise in a variety of disciplines and the similarities between Bitcoin and Bit Gold have led many to speculate that Szabo is Satoshi Nakamoto, though he has repeatedly denied this, “saying that he is used to [being thought of as Satoshi]”. Evidence is circumstantial at best. One of the most pointed reasons is the similarity in writing styles between Nakamoto and Szabo.
Szabo now still holds a lot of influence in the blockchain and cryptocurrency space, with many investors heeding his words on developments in the space.