Altered Carbon: The Miserable Destiny of Mankind


Altered Carbon is a post-modern series that doesn’t follow the norms of popular series. You may be surprised and sometimes disturbed by what happens to characters. Like many other post-modern stories, the story-line is not the important part and sometimes fragments of episodes have more to say than expected.


The series takes place over 360 years in the future, with most episodes set in the year 2384, in Bay City, a futuristic metropolis. In that future, memories of humans and their consciousness can be saves in a disk-shaped device called a cortical stack, which is implanted in the vertebrae at the back of the neck.

Altered Carbon

These storage devices have been reverse-engineered from some alien device and mass-produced by hi-tech companies and sold to rich people. Rich people have synthetic bodies are called “sleeves” and if their sleeves die, the stacks can be transferred to new bodies. A person with those sleeves can still be killed if his/her stack is destroyed.

While this theoretically means anyone can live forever, only the wealthiest, known as “Meths” have the means to do so through clones and remote storage of their consciousness in satellites. The main question that is the core of despair in immortal characters is about the memories and their role in shaping a person.

Altered Carbon is a post-modern narrative of the absurdity of human life when death is avoidable and morality needs to be clarified in the shadow of immortality. The motif of the series can be summarized in this sentence: With infinite future comes infinite past.

Humans are reborn many times but instead of enjoying immortality, they become bitter and despair people who are suffering again and again. The intelligent motif of Altered Carbon is to show how absurd will be life when there is no death. All human perceptions of the world need a new interpretation to be meaningful in the weird circumstance.

See also  Black Mirror; The Future Is Here

The main conflict in Altered Carbon is between those who invented immortal life and those who are against it. Actually, the motto of rebels can be: “Death with immortal life!” A contradiction in the core meaning of war.

It reminds us of the famous motto of Spanish prisoners who were being executed by the French army in “The Phantom of Liberty” by Luis Buñuel. They were shouting “Death with the freedom!” French soldiers of Napoleon invaded Spain with the motto of spreading liberty but in fact, they took away the freedom of countries they captured. A contradiction in the motivation of war and its real consequences.

There is a significant difference between the first and second seasons. As much as the first season relies on the deep thought about life and death and meaning of life when hi-tech innovations can create immortality, the second season relies on action scenes and visual effects. The second season can’t go beyond a sci-fi action series that doesn’t satisfy its fans. Of course, we shouldn’t ignore that sex and violence are the common elements of the first season’s episodes. The second season is moderated in this aspect.

2 thoughts on “Altered Carbon: The Miserable Destiny of Mankind

  • November 6, 2020 at 7:23 am

    Generally I don’t read post on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very forced me to try and do so! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thanks, quite nice article.


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