Jordan Peterson accepts bitcoin after leaving Patreon

The Canadian professor takes issue with blocking free speech, but is he part of the problem?

  • Alongside Dave Rubin, Jordan Peterson left Patreon over "free speech" issues to launch their own platform.
  • In the interim, Peterson is accepting bitcoin, which might hint at the "extra features" their platform will include.
  • They point to anti-feminist Youtuber, Sargon of Akkad, as the impetus for leaving Patreon — ironic, considering how often Peterson points to identity politics as a problem.

It's been more than a decade since Satoshi Nakamoto published his/her/their famous white paper that first described a currency that solved the double-spending problem associated with digital assets. A few months later he released the first software that would launch the network that services bitcoin.

No longer would we need to rely on a trusted third party, many of which mine data and information while making our identity vulnerable to hacking. By incentivizing miners (or, as it has evolved, validators), a global, decentralized solution was presented. So long as no individual miner controls the bulk of computing power, a fair and equitable system of transacting is now possible.

The idea for a decentralized currency had been floating around for over a decade when Nakamoto published their paper. Since Nick Szabo wrote a treatise on "bit gold" in 1998, a few suspected him as the man behind the pseudonym; Szabo also devised the concept of "smart contracts," one of the foundational mechanisms making blockchain so important. Szabo claims he's not Nakamoto, however. Others claim they are, unsurprising since charlatans infect every industry.

The mythology of Satoshi transcends the individual. This is an essential part of the mythos driving cryptocurrency. The centralization of power and money has aided the world's greatest problems — climate change, systemic racism, gender inequality, terrible design decisions. Eight people holding as much wealth as over 3.75 billion is not a feature of the species. It's a bug, and bugs have consequences.

Cryptocurrency, at its best, is an imaginative response to a serious problem. Nothing new here: an exploitation of a powerful system followed by a social response. The history of humans again rhymes itself.

At its worst, the community cryptocurrency has spawned is little different than the forces it was designed to rail against: a seething enmity toward anything "other" in order to defend the precious self. Suffice it to say, at the moment crypto is dominated by men, and as with other tech sectors, biases are rampant.

As with any prospective industry, especially one ripe with potential capital, this next phase of human transacting will require civility. Sure, we're biologically programmed to blah blah blah; understanding our point of origin is important. But as with broken hearts, the past becomes a prison and an excuse for not striving to be better.

We Are Leaving Patreon: Dave Rubin and Jordan Peterson Announcement

Which is what Jordan Peterson, following in the footsteps of Sam Harris, did when leaving Patreon. It wasn't specifically Carl Benjamin, aka Sargon of Akkad, that caused the Canadian professor to join forces with Dave Rubin to risk over half of his income in an attempt to create a new "freer speech" platform. It was, however, the final proverbial nail.

Peterson's platform hasn't panned out, yet, which is likely why he is utilizing all means necessary, including bitcoin. While he says the new platform will be similar to Patreon's subscription model, he added that "it will have a bunch of additional features." Perhaps this move into cryptocurrency might signal one of those features.

Peterson announced his departure on January 1 in a video alongside Rubin. Concern over Patreon's relationship with MasterCard, something cited by Robert Spencer when he was kicked off the platform for also violating its hate speech policies, is the driving factor behind the move. Sargon just happened to be in the right place at the right time to motivate the two to leave.

Cut and dry: Patreon has a policy against hate speech. Benjamin was making money on Patreon, which was funding his discriminatory rants on Youtube. Patreon banned him.

What defines hate speech? That's a big question no singular person is equipped to answer. We can get caught in the weeds on this — and should; language is the main vehicle by which we communicate and shouldn't be glossed over — but like a foul odor, it's obvious when hatred and discrimination assaults your senses.

For example, take Robert Spencer's Twitter feed, dominated at the moment by retweets from the 2019 State of the Union. Among the things I learned from it: Twitter, apparently, has a liberal bias because both Nancy and Pelosi can trend on the platform, not just her full name; Democrats hate seeing America do well because they want to see Americans suffer; a journalist pointing out that Jews don't believe in heaven is a reason to hate journalists; Democratic women, dressed in white to represent the suffrage movement, are actually the new KKK; AOC. Boy, does she get under their skin.

Bitcoin or gold, what is the better crisis currency? The picture shows a Bitcoin (physically) and gold nuggets. Photo credit: Ulrich Baumgarten via Getty Images

Fueled by these inspired rants, I turn to one of Sargon's videos. He's upset about a female-only screening of "Wonder Woman." The "supremacist" inclination of these women, the illegality of it all. He's clearly befuddled by the "specially-privileged women-only thing." A moment of self-reflection occurs when he realizes it is a "petty thing to be bothered about," at which point he goes on for another four-plus minutes about why he's bothered about it.

I hope he never wants to exercise at Curves.

Here's the brilliant thing about Curves, though. The successful women-only gym saved on costs by launching in suburban areas, where rents are lower; the machines are arranged in a circle around the main floor, promoting social interaction; perhaps most importantly, women don't have to deal with being gawked at by men.

And for that, men — in many instances in such conversations, white men — feel victimized. Instead of attempting empathy, they lash out, somehow feeling taken advantage of, unfairly mistreated, and potentially the most scandalous sensation of all: vulnerable. That's what I assessed watching a handful of Sargon videos: it all comes back to him.

Which makes Peterson's decision to hang his hat on this totem telling. In his books and videos, Peterson offers many big-picture ideas that make a lot of sense in terms of how society operates. Yet, like Sargon, a lot of his rhetoric invokes self-victimization. Instead of opening a dialogue, he engages in constant oneupmanship, like the time he tried to teach Alex Wagner what parenting entails. As someone who rails against identity politics so often, he often gets bogged down in his own identity.

Bringing us to an intriguing paradox: the usage of a decentralized digital currency created to disassemble power structures being utilized by those interested in keeping those power structures in place. Again, unsurprising: Bank of America has filed more blockchain patents than anyone.

The difference with Peterson and others might seem more social and gender-based than economic, but those too are intertwined. The last few centuries have been about the accumulation of power and wealth by a particular race and gender. Now that they're being asked to display empathy as the power balance shifts, they don't like it.

We should applaud thinkers that "reach across the aisle" to ensure similar rights for those who think differently. Of this Patreon backlash, Sam Harris's reasoning on this topic is the most clear-headed to date.

Utilizing digital currency to support the dissemination of ideas also makes sense. As thinkers that pontificate on the nature of society, they're at the head of a long curve in which cryptocurrency (or some form of digital currency) will eventually replace fiat. How that happens remains to be seen, but this one isn't getting stuffed back into the box.

But to pound your stake in the ground by defending men who are butt-hurt that women want to congregate without men is just silly. We shouldn't ban speech, but we also shouldn't eliminate common sense from the discourse. Otherwise, we're just writing the same story over and over, one smacking of privilege with no sense of grace or compassion about the lives of others, regardless of the technological innovations involved.

Biology might point to destiny, but it's not the total summation of it. For that, we need the thinkers we champion to make better use of their imagination.


Stay in touch with Derek on Twitter and Facebook.

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New fossils suggest human ancestors evolved in Europe, not Africa

Experts argue the jaws of an ancient European ape reveal a key human ancestor.

Surprising Science
  • The jaw bones of an 8-million-year-old ape were discovered at Nikiti, Greece, in the '90s.
  • Researchers speculate it could be a previously unknown species and one of humanity's earliest evolutionary ancestors.
  • These fossils may change how we view the evolution of our species.

Homo sapiens have been on earth for 200,000 years — give or take a few ten-thousand-year stretches. Much of that time is shrouded in the fog of prehistory. What we do know has been pieced together by deciphering the fossil record through the principles of evolutionary theory. Yet new discoveries contain the potential to refashion that knowledge and lead scientists to new, previously unconsidered conclusions.

A set of 8-million-year-old teeth may have done just that. Researchers recently inspected the upper and lower jaw of an ancient European ape. Their conclusions suggest that humanity's forebearers may have arisen in Europe before migrating to Africa, potentially upending a scientific consensus that has stood since Darwin's day.

Rethinking humanity's origin story

The frontispiece of Thomas Huxley's Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature (1863) sketched by natural history artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

As reported in New Scientist, the 8- to 9-million-year-old hominin jaw bones were found at Nikiti, northern Greece, in the '90s. Scientists originally pegged the chompers as belonging to a member of Ouranopithecus, an genus of extinct Eurasian ape.

David Begun, an anthropologist at the University of Toronto, and his team recently reexamined the jaw bones. They argue that the original identification was incorrect. Based on the fossil's hominin-like canines and premolar roots, they identify that the ape belongs to a previously unknown proto-hominin.

The researchers hypothesize that these proto-hominins were the evolutionary ancestors of another European great ape Graecopithecus, which the same team tentatively identified as an early hominin in 2017. Graecopithecus lived in south-east Europe 7.2 million years ago. If the premise is correct, these hominins would have migrated to Africa 7 million years ago, after undergoing much of their evolutionary development in Europe.

Begun points out that south-east Europe was once occupied by the ancestors of animals like the giraffe and rhino, too. "It's widely agreed that this was the found fauna of most of what we see in Africa today," he told New Scientists. "If the antelopes and giraffes could get into Africa 7 million years ago, why not the apes?"

He recently outlined this idea at a conference of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

It's worth noting that Begun has made similar hypotheses before. Writing for the Journal of Human Evolution in 2002, Begun and Elmar Heizmann of the Natural history Museum of Stuttgart discussed a great ape fossil found in Germany that they argued could be the ancestor (broadly speaking) of all living great apes and humans.

"Found in Germany 20 years ago, this specimen is about 16.5 million years old, some 1.5 million years older than similar species from East Africa," Begun said in a statement then. "It suggests that the great ape and human lineage first appeared in Eurasia and not Africa."

Migrating out of Africa

In the Descent of Man, Charles Darwin proposed that hominins descended out of Africa. Considering the relatively few fossils available at the time, it is a testament to Darwin's astuteness that his hypothesis remains the leading theory.

Since Darwin's time, we have unearthed many more fossils and discovered new evidence in genetics. As such, our African-origin story has undergone many updates and revisions since 1871. Today, it has splintered into two theories: the "out of Africa" theory and the "multi-regional" theory.

The out of Africa theory suggests that the cradle of all humanity was Africa. Homo sapiens evolved exclusively and recently on that continent. At some point in prehistory, our ancestors migrated from Africa to Eurasia and replaced other subspecies of the genus Homo, such as Neanderthals. This is the dominant theory among scientists, and current evidence seems to support it best — though, say that in some circles and be prepared for a late-night debate that goes well past last call.

The multi-regional theory suggests that humans evolved in parallel across various regions. According to this model, the hominins Homo erectus left Africa to settle across Eurasia and (maybe) Australia. These disparate populations eventually evolved into modern humans thanks to a helping dollop of gene flow.

Of course, there are the broad strokes of very nuanced models, and we're leaving a lot of discussion out. There is, for example, a debate as to whether African Homo erectus fossils should be considered alongside Asian ones or should be labeled as a different subspecies, Homo ergaster.

Proponents of the out-of-Africa model aren't sure whether non-African humans descended from a single migration out of Africa or at least two major waves of migration followed by a lot of interbreeding.

Did we head east or south of Eden?

Not all anthropologists agree with Begun and his team's conclusions. As noted by New Scientist, it is possible that the Nikiti ape is not related to hominins at all. It may have evolved similar features independently, developing teeth to eat similar foods or chew in a similar manner as early hominins.

Ultimately, Nikiti ape alone doesn't offer enough evidence to upend the out of Africa model, which is supported by a more robust fossil record and DNA evidence. But additional evidence may be uncovered to lend further credence to Begun's hypothesis or lead us to yet unconsidered ideas about humanity's evolution.