stephen hawking
Image: © NASA HQ PHOTO via Flickr

Stephen Hawking could be on the next £50 note, if it exists…

The UK is one of the world’s most cashless societies. Not everyone thinks that’s a good thing.

What it means: When you really think about it, money is kinda weird. We think of it as something valuable, but pull out a fiver or tenner from your purse and you’re really just holding a colourful bit of paper. Still, people care what that bit of paper looks like, which is why there’s been chatter over the new £50 note the government is issuing… and specifically which celebrity should be the face of it. (Stephen Hawking’s nearest competitors in a UniLad poll are Princess Di and David Bowie). But some people think we shouldn’t bother creating new money notes at all. They want the UK to be a cashless economy. Which, tbf, it already mostly is: digital money (credit cards, online bank transfers etc) make up 96 percent of money transfers in the UK.

Digital money has lots of advantages: you don’t need big suitcases to cart loads of it around, it can be transferred to a business or other person instantly, and if you leave your purse on the train you can just cancel your card and not lose any money. Plus, the plastic notes the UK government is rolling out upset some people, mostly because they are made animal fat which is taboo to vegans and certain religions (although criminals may also be pissed because they’re more difficult to forge).

But a cashless economy could cause more inequality, because poorer people and smaller businesses can struggle to access the bank accounts and loans that digital money is stored in. And online money is vulnerable to online crime - hackers have already made off with £500 million of people’s digital money this year.


Read our explainer on digital money.

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