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In Altered Carbon a person's mind (or "DHF") can be backed up and easily transmitted to a different body, and human bodies ("sleeves") are a commodity that can be cloned and occupied by any other person's mind.

So especially the wealthy ("Meths") can treat their bodies like consumables. Not only are they effectively immortal, but the wealthiest view "sleeve death" as a sport: most people (with the exception of religious objectors) will readily give up their current body for one that is better, and prostitutes and sport fighters will endure physical humiliation and destruction that would otherwise be a crime in exchange for sleeve upgrades.

As best I can gather, "double-sleeving," or running one person's DHF simultaneously in more than one sleeve, is among the most serious crimes that can be committed. Even the interstellar government ("the Protectorate") does not double-sleeve its best soldiers or agents, which seems like an odd handicap. In the course of the first season we come across one high-level criminal named Dimi who notoriously double-sleeved himself. But even when talking to other criminals he seems defensive about having done that, insisting that his other instance is his "brother," not a copy of himself.

I can see how multi-sleeving would make it difficult to keep any story in the Altered Carbon universe from going off the rails. But other than as a plot constraint is there a reason consistent with the universe rules as to why double-sleeving would be a crime, much less one of the worst crimes a person can commit?

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    A better question is not why double-sleeving is a crime, but why this particular crime is not committed very often by criminals. Even criminals (people who commit crimes, by definition) seem to look on this crime with disgust. – WakeDemons3 Mar 12 '18 at 19:36
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Richard Morgan doesn't really explain but...

Accountability

I, as a distinct individual person(ality), should be held accountable for any crimes I commit.

But "double-sleeving" essentially creates a duplicate (not a clone) of that personality so, essentially, negating the responsibility issue...even though they are the same person regardless of physical form.

A duplicate mind in a different body should be held responsible...at least that's the methodology I see here.

Is it a plot creation...arguably, yes, but the whole legality of sleeving is somewhat cloudy in Altered Carbon. What about cloned bodies used as sleeves?

Some crime needs to be "the worst" and this seems a reasonable option since it involves the fundamental issue of "self" and "individuality".

  • I just clarified my question: I'm trying to figure out why it would be a crime at all. All the other crimes in the AC universe make sense, but I don't understand how double-sleeving causes any harm, much less a harm to society. As you said: In the universe, the person (meaning the "DHF") is held responsible for his actions, regardless of sleeve. If he "forks" his DHF, then it seems straightforward to hold all DHF copies responsible for crimes committed before a fork. (Or rather, no less straightforward than it is without forking.) – feetwet Mar 9 '18 at 15:08
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    There is no canonical answer to this. It just is. If the the "person" is the same with a double sleeve and that's who should be held accountable. In the absence of an actual answer from Mr Morgan this verges on opinion-based. – Paulie_D Mar 9 '18 at 15:10
  • If you catch two copies you can't be sure there isn't a third one, still creating an identification paradox. So once you know consciousness isn't unique, you just wipe each one you find. – Paulie_D Mar 9 '18 at 15:16
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    If you're a double-sleeved criminal and you get caught then the other sleeve can still go and commit crimes. So it's easier to make double sleeving a crime than keep catching more of the same criminals. – Luciano Mar 9 '18 at 15:51
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    @feetwet Those scientists and philosophers might not like it a whole lot. It would devalue them as individuals. – JMac Mar 12 '18 at 15:36
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It MUST be illegal lest everyone just run around committing crimes and then blaming a double sleeve (real or ficticious). Consider the desperate straits cops are already in in the AC world. Criminals can jump sleeves (seemingly at will), any physical evidence would just implicate a sleeve, not the stack, and folks can use artificial or cloned bodies. So if double sleeving was legal, someone could do it, go commit a crime, and then commit suicide (or go to jail), leaving the other version to reap the benefits (theft from a business rival, death of an ex-wife, etc) who can't be held accountable. Or they could just say they were double sleeved and all the evidence points to a rogue version of themselves. But if double sleeving itself is illegal, then this defense would at least carry some penalties.

So this would create a legal nightmare in a world already struggling with gross inequality and a lack of accountability.

It would also lower the stakes for the protagonists. As we see in the shows last few episodes, Tak is ...

...perfectly safe in the finale because a version of him is off having an orgy. Not only does this let the other Tak get into the floating station, but it gives him a suicide option because he is already alive elsewhere.

This robs the story of considerable narrative tension, IMHO.

  • I see (and in fact, conceded in the OP) the "narrative necessity" argument. But I don't see the practical argument, because at the very end we see that the authorities quite easily deal with the double-sleeved good-guy. In fact, I am having a hard time seeing how this doesn't reduce to an argument against allowing identical twins to live (since they are naturally "double-sleeved" at conception). – feetwet Mar 12 '18 at 15:23
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    @feetwet You're sleeving the DHF, not DNA. Even identical twins would have different memories from before birth. Double sleeving would be closer to the opposite; you could have different DNA but the same memories in both bodies. – JMac Mar 12 '18 at 15:35
  • That last line, +1. Otherwise it'd be a pay-to-play plot. – Mazura Jun 14 '18 at 0:15
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The previous answers have touched upon some really good reasons ranging from - accountability to problems with law enforcement. But at the crux of it, double-sleeving is deemed a serious crime in the Altered Carbon universe and is looked down upon even by criminals as it is ethically wrong.

Let me present a few scenarios to present the ethical challenges.

  1. When you double-sleeve a person, the new sleeve has the exact same memories and emotions as the original individual. What would that entail in a family? A husband who was double sleeved is now competing with another person for the affections of his wife. See the problem here? This would be a real issue for all factions of the society, Meth or otherwise.

  2. Another scenario - a person who has been horribly wronged by somebody is double-sleeved. The new sleeve on waking up (born?) now proceeds to exact revenge and kills the said person. The sleeve could then argue that their action was a manifestation of the thoughts and emotions they were born with. In this case it could be argued that the sleeve is as guilty as the original.

A somewhat similar situation arose in the series when Kovascs double-sleeved himself. Later, one of them has to die. But both of them are fully functioning humans that carry the same emotions and neither actually wants to die. Who dies in that scenario? After all they are both living people in all sense of the word.

P.S. When I say it's ethically wrong, I am pointing to the conundrum of cloning that it robs away the individuality of a person.

... there may be expectations that the cloned individuals would act identically to the human from which they were cloned, which could infringe on the right to self-determination - Wiki

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In Altered Carbon, "double-sleeving" is considered a crime because -- while the continued and widespread use of the stack technology has allowed for the period of economic stagnation maintaining the social status of individuals in the ruling class -- the technology fundamentally debases the value of human life, evidenced by the rampant violence and prostitution. It allows people to copy their memories into another body but it can't copy the soul. In the world of this show, when you die your stream of consciousness is still permanently ended. When the stack gets re-sleeved your stream of consciousness does not pick up again, it is just a copy of you.

This is the significance of the brief mention of the fact that this technology was adopted after being discovered on an alien planet belonging to a long-extinct race. It is implied that they went extinct because the stack technology inherently reduces the value of life.

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    That sounds like an indictment of resleeving generally. But the AC universe's society – especially the upper "Meth" class – is predicated on resleeving being broadly accepted. Only "religious Neo-Catholic" people even protest being implanted with a stack. So this answer, if anything, points out that it is not consistent with the AC universe for double-sleeving to be a crime (much less a serious one). – feetwet Mar 16 '18 at 18:56
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    The continued existence of the Meth class depends upon the continued use of the stacks, and the fact that "double-sleeving" is even possible exposes a strong philosophical argument against the technology, wholesale. The fact that in general, even among criminals, it is something that is simply not done is evidence that, as a society, they do not want to think about it. Double sleeving is illegal because the ruling class does not want people thinking about what the possibility implies. It's Orwellian in nature. – Z4RQUON Mar 16 '18 at 19:06
  • Your statements contradict in-universe actions. Neo Christians quite clearly believe the stack is attached to the soul in some sense, otherwise winding a stack back up wouldn't be the issue it is to them. They think it taints the soul and forever casts it out of heaven. And I don't think there's any indication the Ancients ever used a stack like technology. What happened to them is a complete mystery. A human devised stack technology from what she learned from ancient tech, but it's not said she copied an ancient tech. – zibadawa timmy Jun 19 at 6:39
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This is not explicitly mentioned in the show, but it is important enough to be a good reason to enact such a law.

To prevent the utter destruction of the human race.

If double sleeving were legal, it opens society up to abuses that results in one personality effectively taking control of humanity. When one person became both rich and powerful, they could double sleeve themselves and create a private army of themselves and capture control of the entirety of humanity within a reasonably short period of time.

One rich person visits another rich person privately. The rich person steals their body and nobody is any wiser. They do this over and over again. On the surface it's a bunch of meths doing what meths do. But "under the hood" it's one person taking control of the wealthiest parts of society. Once total control of the super-wealthy is complete, it's time to start taking over the powerful in the non-meth society. And gradually trickle-down bodysnatching becomes systematised until nobody is left to stop the control personality.

It would be the perfect crime too, because there would never need to be any evidence that it was occurring, because the personality could conceive of the plan and the act of forking themselves secretly would be enough to fill in the plan to their mind clones. And if they're rich and powerful enough (which they would need to be to start this process), they would ultimately be able to take over humanity from the top down, leading to the ultimate downfall of the species.

Remember, sleeves are a finite resource but the forked minds would not be.

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