Altered Carbon: Best of the Year


The new Netflix series – Altered Carbon – will probably go down as one of the best science-fiction  shows of these years. Elitism versus populism, the trans-humanist controversy, sex  and power, authority and rebellion are all ongoing themes here.

In this future, people can download (and backup) their consciousness into a “stack” in the upper vertebrae, which can then be put into a clone (if you’re rich) or whatever corpse becomes available (if your poor). So characters who begin in a certain “sleeve” (the meat and bones of the physical body) end up looking different.

While it borrows from Bladerunner and the Matrix, it has its own personality. The show’s depiction of the future overlaps with The Diamond Age (a great read, and its “neo-Victorians” remind me of the “neo-Catholics” in the show), and the The Windup Girl (harder to read, with more complicated plot lines, but fascinating, with artificial humans in a world of scarcity, etc…).

Altered Carbon is well done, with action that drives the plot and that does not become too boring or ongoing (like in those absurd superhero movies). It’s shiny, cool, and sexy. There is a very high level of sophistication behind the writing and concepts.

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I won’t continue to spoil the plot. But I need to point out one thing. Below, the AI hotel clerk / bartender in Altered Carbon, who had not seen any guests in years. He is somewhat similar to some other guys, shown below.

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Why is this meme – the lone bartender standing at an inter-dimensional portal, so pervasive? It must mean something for the producers behind the producers.

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This meme is visible in The Shining and in Passengers.

Makes me wonder if there is something real to this archetype.

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