Last time I talked about the dystopian video game Beholder. Today, I am going to talk about an American dystopian science fiction cyberpunk TV series, Altered Carbon. This TV series is based on the 2002 novel of the same title by English author Richard K. Morgan. During the Easter holidays, I have watched the first season on Netflix, I have to say it is outstanding. In order to not to be a spoiler for those who haven’t watch it yet, I will just talk about the setting and design in the series.
The story of Altered Carbon takes place in the future which is about 400 years from now. In the future, a human’s mind and memories can be decanted in a disk-shaped device (in the series it is called cortical stack), which is placed at the back of the neck. And such device is not made by human technology but an alien one. While human beings exploring the universe, they found such technology, engineered and put it into mass production. Once the human’s mind and memories can be stored, the physical body has become nothing more than a tool, or what is called “sleeve” in the series. As long as your stack is still working, you can switch to any other body like plugin a USB in a computer. So basically, as long as you can afford the price new bodies, you can be immortal. However, if your stack has been destroyed and there is no backup of your memories and mind, you will be REAL DEAD.
According to this technology, the society in the story has become very dystopian and cyberpunk, “high-tech and low life”.
As I mentioned that if you can afford the price for new bodies, you can live forever. Hence, a new social class has emerged in this dystopian and cyberpunk world, the Meth. The Meth is much more powerful than the traditional upper-class and the bourgeoisie. By following the logic that the rich can afford the new bodies and live forever, the rich are getting more and more wealthy, their business never fall but getting bigger and bigger. They have become the most powerful group on the planet (even many colonists world) and form their own inner-circle, they living in the place that way far from the ground just to get away the dirty air and those poor.
While for those poor, although the stack technology can also save your mind and memories whether you are rich or poor, the new body is something that they cannot easily afford. So, on the ground, many poor people take part in criminal things just in order to get their new bodies or upgrade their bodies.
If those poor criminals got bad luck and jailed, they could stay there for hundreds of years because the stack can keep them “alive” for even a longer time. While the prisoner’s mind is sleeping in the stack, the prison will mess around with the body. Some staffs in the prison will sell the body which is in good condition to the mafia to have some extra income. Then when those prisoners wake up, some of their bodies are gone, and their minds will be put into random bodies. Sometimes, a man will be in a women’s body, or the other way around.
Overall, the setting and design of this TV series are really fantastic! If you are a fan of cyberpunk or dystopian theme, you have to take a look at this! Hope you will enjoy it.