Netflix’s New Sci-Fi Epic Will Make You Look At Death In A Whole New Way

by Alaina Urquhart-White

Spoilers ahead! Netflix has brought another interesting and unique series into our lives with its new adaptation of Richard K. Morgan's 2002 sci-fi novel, "Altered Carbon," which is the first book in a trilogy. Altered Carbon (executive producer: Laeta Kalogridis) premieres Feb. 2 and takes place hundreds of years in the future. In this society, human beings have become so technologically advanced that there is now the technology to literally upload your consciousness to a device in order to escape death. Of course, this process costs a lot of money, which makes it a luxury that really only a special subgroup of humans referred to as "Meths" can take advantage of. What exactly are Meths in Altered Carbon?

Meths are essentially the richest and most powerful people in this futuristic society that Altered Carbon (costume design, 9 episodes: Ann Foley) has presented. And the term is meant to be a derogatory way to referring to this class of people. Although "Meth" might not immediately make sense to a lot of viewers in reference to wealth, it is actually a shortened name for the biblical figure, Methuselah.

For those of you not up on your Bible references, Methuselah was thought to be the oldest man in all the land, according to the Old Testament. He lived until the ripe old age of 969, so it should start to make sense now why his name is connected to the Meths of Altered Carbon. The Meths are the wealthiest humans in this futuristic society and that affords them the unique ability to use their cash to live forever — even longer than Methuselah.


You may be wondering how Meths maintain their immortality, or how anyone in this future scenario can escape death at all. Per Nerdist, in Altered Carbon, technology has advanced so far that humans have discovered that they can use "cortical stacks" to upload their mind/consciousness and allow them to switch into another body at any time that they so choose. Bodies, now known as "sleeves," have literally been reduced to mere shells at this point. The real meat of the situation lies in a person's consciousness. These stacks that hold people's minds are implanted into individual's necks.


Basically, you can live forever but there is a thing called "Real Death" in the Altered Carbon novels. Real Death is when someone's cortical stack is destroyed and if this happens by the hand of someone else, it is considered the worst crime that can happen.

The idea of death not being a certainty obviously has huge implications in the book, such as allowing people to point the finger at their own killers or take the form of a younger person when age has become too much of a burden. The issues arise when human life becomes kind of a novelty. A society that doesn't see a lot of actual death can become desensitized to the gift that human life really is. For example, Meths tend to get new bodies way before their old one has run its full length of life. The idea of getting a new, younger body at any time may be pretty tempting, but most people in this futuristic society tend to wait until they actually die naturally or by some other means before they have their stack placed into a new sleeve. Meths take advantage of their wealth and power by changing sleeves willy nilly.

Even though the novel that Altered Carbon is based on was published way back in 2002, it still holds very true in today's world. The differences between the haves and have-nots in society will always resonate, and this story holds particular meaning in today's current political climate. Altered Carbon will definitely make audiences think about what it would mean to allow technology to take away some of the human race's more unique qualities, such as respect for human life itself.