second prize 2014

Jonathon Keats
Selfie Money

It’s hard times for dollars and pounds. Banknotes are losing out to Square and PayPal. The whole idea of national currencies may become obsolete in the age of bitcoin.

The Bank of England is fighting monetary obsolescence by updating the 10-pound note with a portrait of Jane Austen, presumably more enticing to younger generations than Charles Darwin. But it’s too little, too late. The only way to successfully compete against the discreet convenience of electronic transactions – let alone the anonymity of cryptocurrencies – is by appealing to flagrant narcissism.

National governments must replace old-fashioned portraits of historical figures with pictures of the people who actually use their banknotes. The new face of paper money must be the selfie.

Given the strong connection between celebrity and wealth in modern society, selfie money should have little trouble gaining popular acceptance. Moreover, the system should have a beneficial effect on national economies, preventing recession, since the opportunity for people to have their portraits in others’ wallets will motivate spending. Narcissism will be the new wealth of nations.