In the show (and I presume in the books as well) they make a pretty big deal about the physical bodies being merely "sleeves" to be discarded and replaced. However, everything from payments to secure locks seem to be DNA based, which doesn't make sense. The problem is even outlined in the show when Kovacs realizes that Bancroft's kids secretly use theis parents's clones, giving them acces to the DNA-locked weapon cabinet. Shouldn't authentication be tied to their stacks in stead? Is there an in-world (or not) explanation for this?

1 Answer 1


While not explained in detail in either the book or series, there is some sense behind it:

Interfacing directly with the stack is somewhat invasive and not really suitable for frequent transactions, like paying for your daily meal. A wireless connection to your stack occurring every time you make a purchase is similarly a huge security risk.

Most people do not change stacks, and certainly not often. When they do, it's almost always under circumstances that have some level of oversight, like an accredited hospital, or resleeving clinic, and as such one can imagine procedures in place that let the bank know "okay, this stack is now connected to this body, update the DNA record required to access the account." People who regularly change stacks would obviously have considered the problem and any additional precautions they needed to take.

Stacks also carry their own problems. Although it doesn't get much into it in the series, in the book it's described as pretty difficult to get any specific information artificially from a stack - this is why the torture clinic was necessary, otherwise why not just read their mind. So, what do you scan to verify their identity? You can't use a serial number on the stack itself, because stacks are generally interchangeable, it's the data inside them that's important. Maybe you could scan for an overall 'signature' that identifies the particular stored consciousness (but what happens if they go through significant life changing experiences that change who they are?). In the end, it's all just data, which can be manipulated. When you think about it, the best scan for identity that relies on a stack is the person knowing a particular password and sending it from whichever body they're in, which is probably also done, depending on the circumstance and their individual propensity for stack-switching.

You can imagine it similar to the chip payments on cards that let you just tap your card on a sensor to pay quickly, rather than inputting your PIN - it's theoretically incredibly insecure because anyone who gets their hands on your card can then do it, but for the most part, people prefer the convenience, and you can set it so that transactions under a certain amount are processed automatically, but for more expensive things you need more robust identity confirmation (that may come from stack probing, passwords, etc). People like Laurens Bancroft, who have such huge amounts of money that they're barely notice if someone stole what would be a life-changing amount for someone else, will have comparatively higher thresholds. And he may have assumed that he was at no risk from stolen clones, because who would dare?

Unlike a password, you never have to worry about forgetting your DNA or giving the wrong one. Unlike a card, you never lose your DNA (except in the case of a new sleeve which is, again, rare and usually happens in circumstances where updating your access credentials is easy)... and, although your DNA can be copied pretty easily, sensors might be able to detect how fresh the sample is, etc, and make that more complicated than it is in our world, not to mention that it would be a crime, and that a purchase might trigger an alert to the actual owner of the account who can instantly alert authorities.

It's obviously not a perfect system, and probably not used universally, but it's good enough for everyday life.

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    I actually agree with many of your arguments, but I still think that the show puts a lot of emphasis on bodies being quite disposable. And I don't think that sleeve change is that rare, and seems to be a quick procedure. For instance, Ortega seemingly very easily puts her grandmother in the body of a criminal, and she mentions that it is quite common for people to rent sleeves for their loved ones for holidays.
    – pajevic
    Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 18:44
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    Also, DNA scanners in the show don't seem to be that sophisticated. They accept any DNA samples, including blood and spit, without contact with the actual body (Kovacs spits on the scanner in the hospital when trying to get help for Ortega). This is quite insecure since obtaining a sample of someones spit is fairly manageable. Perhaps these scanners are just not futuristic enough in my view since they are almost in the realm of possibilities for tech we have today. I expect something better centuries from now in a society that has shed their birth bodies. But I am probably overthinking this :)
    – pajevic
    Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 18:52
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    Yes, but remember you've got AI on the level of Poe, too. So, you could imagine that every DNA scanner also has a camera nearby and a dedicated limited AI solely to judge that someone very similar looking provided the sample, that they didn't dip into a little eyedropper of fluid to get it, etc. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, nature, or insecurity. ;) Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 19:00
  • I hate to say this, but this is a book of fiction. Not all ideas are completely thought through and a certain 'suspension of disbelief' is usually required in any SF&F story. Sometimes it's required about something below the everyday layer (as this question is, more or less); sometimes it's about the whole damn setup (see Market Forces also by Richard Morgan) which is unbelievable from chapter 1 but never-the-less good fun to go along with. You-pay-your-money-and-you-takes-your-choice! Commented Feb 24, 2018 at 23:20
  • Come on @simonatrcl, don't be THAT guy ;)
    – pajevic
    Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 13:27

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