Death Isn't The End in the New Trailer for Altered Carbon

Image: Netflix
Image: Netflix
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In the new trailer for Altered Carbon, the wealthiest man in the world has been murdered. And now he’s hiring someone to find out why.

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In the world of Altered Carbon, death is trivial—human minds are digitzed and downloaded from body to body, meaning that those who pass only pass through, not on. After Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy), who has lived for well over 300 years, is “resleeved” into his new body in a more involuntary fashion than usual, he hires Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman/Will Yun Lee) to solve his murder. In exchange, Kovacs gets a new body, and a new lease on extended life.

The new teaser is told from the perspective of Bancroft, giving a look at his long, extravagant life and the circumstances leading to the series. It’s big on worldbuilding and offers a nice hint of Kinnaman’s version of Kovacs getting into a nasty brawl.

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Altered Carbon debuts on Netflix February 2nd, 2018. Watch the trailer below.

io9 Weekend Editor. Videogame writer at other places. Queer nerd girl.

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DISCUSSION

Interesting. I understand the artistic desire to present a dystopian view. People are not immortal yet, and cannot imagine a world where any but the rich might be immortal - although it has been historically accurate to say that any technology that enables workers to produce more and do better work will either be given to the people or not used. Any partial dissemination where the rich benefit and the poor suffer - well, the civilization always collapses or the poor rebel to level the field. Having such a technology but removing the important components of that tech or keeping it for the rich would ultimately undermine the civilization and lead to collapse or war. So Altered Carbon lays an interesting artistic premise but the reality of current human progression says that it is not a likely future at all.

And with cloning technology, rather unrealistic. There are things we’ve been doing for the last few decades that renders a lot of 80's and 90's sci-fi rather obsolete. People focus on the flying cars, but flying cars have always been limited by infrastructure. And we already have flying cars by the truckloads - they’re called private civilian aircraft. Once automated ATC capable of safely handling millions of transits in any one city location, and we develop lift-vehicles that can safely move people from one place to another with minimal training for those using the vehicle, then we will have flying cars. Its infrastructure more than anything else.

All the current science seems to suggest unaltered clones suffer no detectable degradation in function versus the original and that all indications of such have been due to environmental or external issues introduced that would affect even normally reproduced offspring. So if we assume that mind-copying is like my flying car example, well... we need the infrastructure. You need a way to rapidly build a clone (it doesn’t have to be your exact body as it is now), communicate the details of your mind and your current state, and copy-scan the original (which will likely be placed into some form of interactive stasis and kept up to date, kept as just another node to use where-ever it is at, or disassembled for raw material when you are done with it).

By the time we have computers of the correct class, speed, and type for a mind copy, we will also have augmented nanobots and possible be able to inhabit multiple clones at once. If you think about it, a nanobot cloud and material source with sufficient energy (which only requires fusion power to provide) could easily let us assemble a fully functional atomically accurate clone of our current body and upload into it in a matter of milliseconds - it would be faster than a star trek transporter. Most people will have one or two clone nodes (creating and or destroying them when they travel, based on the costs of materials in the economy), or just live in computerized virtual realms most of the time.

Of course, we will have already solved the aging dilemma by then, too. So your clone node will inherit that and likely be able to live a long time by itself even if it is isolated on a world without copy/transfer tech. And if your clone node doesn’t contain any significant information that isn’t already on the net (which it shouldn’t if you have a comms grid capable of keeping real time communication), you can save money by just disassembling your clone node once your done with it and letting the system have back the atoms and raw materials.

If we can develop FTL travel and communication, then things become more interesting as we can then maintain persistence of consciousness over many lightyears. And no matter what it will be “copy and paste” not “cut and paste” - the original you will still be alive even if you are completely separated from the transferred copy of you.

But the rich and the capable will likely have dozens of clone nodes, flipping bodies on different worlds to travel the stars in seconds, and sending their biological and neurological patterns and data to a nanobuilding device that will assemble a body for them in less than a second at some remote location using an FTL comm grid.

Therefore re-sleeving into a different body is simply satisfying a desire for more dystopian fictional flare than any practical solution to life extension.