Nick Szabo is a computer scientist, legal scholar and cryptographer. Szabo is best known for his proposed project, bit gold, which has been called a precursor to bitcoin.
Bit gold proposes the idea of utilizing bits, which would be ‘unforgeably scarce’. The concept, outlined in 2005, was to use bit gold as a form of digital money similar to precious metals. Szabo posited bit gold could be created online with and used with minimal dependence on third parties for transactions.
In 1997, Szabo also introduced the idea of smart contracts. In a paper, Szabo compares smart contracts to vending machines. The theoretical machine takes in coins, and through simple computation, dispenses product and change according to the displayed selection of the user. He later proposes in the paper to embed smart contracts in a variety of properties that are then controlled by digital means.
Because of bit gold’s parallels to bitcoin, the timing of Szabo’s work and similar linguistic traits, some have speculated that Szabo could be Satoshi Nakamoto. Szabo has denied the connection.