Altered Carbon

Altered Carbon May 4, 2020

There’s so much that one can say about Altered Carbon at the intersection of religion. I recognize that I haven’t blogged about earlier seasons, in which the notion is explored that ‘Meths’ like Rei and Bancroft (who can afford to change their sleeve – i.e. their body – while their personality is backed up, transfers, and lives forever) are “living gods.” As actor James Purefoy put it in an interview related to season 1,

“I loved the duality of being so monstrously egotistical that you would keep coming back, week after week after week, dying and being reborn, dying and being reborn, and still coming back. They would see you as a living god.”

In season 2, we get some interesting statements, some bold and blatant, some subtle and deep. Episode 1 has someone suggest that “true salvation is found in renunciation.” Episode 2 talks about the idea that nothing is sacred any longer, and of moving on to a “more divine plane.” Episode 3 envisages a person’s stack – i.e. their personality which has the potential to move between bodies – being tortured forever in virtual reality. It also has the quip, in response to the old military adage “Kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out,” that this “sounds like an argument for atheism if you ask me.” I’ll write more on this in the near future, especially as I get back to watching the most recent season.

Of related interest, here are some calls for papers on posthumanism:

Posthumanism 2020

Questioning the Human: Posthuman Accounts in Popular Culture

Parsing Posthumanism

Also related to Altered Carbon and the broader themes and technological possibilities it explores:

Yuval Noah Harari’s history of everyone, ever

Will Coronavirus change our attitudes to death? Just the opposite

As I mentioned above, I didn’t blog about Altered Carbon when I watched it, but I’ll be thinking about the show more in the very near future, as I work on a book chapter for a volume on Altered Carbon and theology, and complete another (due sooner) about resurrection and afterlife in the Bible and science fiction. These are important questions, and science fiction in general and shows like Altered Carbon in particular enable us to ask more interesting and sometimes simply better questions about subjects like resurrection. On such broader questions you may enjoy reading:

Will we ever be able to upload our mind to a new body?

Upload: the digital good place?

What’s my best chance of living forever?

Altered Carbon’s costume designs

Theological Preparation for the Next Century

Richard Beck blogged about ancient transhumanism (no, seriously).

Is Death Reversible?

On how we envisage the afterlife:


New Eschatologies

Bart Ehrman on resurrection beliefs in the ancient world:

There’s more from Bart Ehrman on his blog, including some posts that are accessible by non-members.

John Granger Cook on ancient Mediterranean resurrection beliefs

Dead Language

No Exit from Black Mirror

There are other series that deserve to be discussed in comparison with Altered Carbon, such as Josh Whedon’s Dollhouse. See too:

Will a pseudo-God of artificial intelligence rule future humankind?

"I was told something similar when I was relatively new, born again and it horrified ..."

Babies’ Sinful Cries?
"Great question! I think that if What God is Like worked then so will I ..."

I Am God’s Dream
"Based on your review, I am tempted to buy three copies, one for me, one ..."

I Am God’s Dream
"I think there is something quite wrong with that take on the Syro-Phoenician woman. The ..."

What Jesus Learned from Women…and Science ..."

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