Welcome to the 24th century. It is more than 300 years in the future and death is no longer inevitable. It is now possible to download your persona into a new body (or “sleeves” in the parlance of the day after tomorrow). In short, human consciousness has been digitised.

Other things haven’t changed in the future though; the commodification of sexuality, gaping social divisions, and drugs as a lifestyle choice. Oh, and digital humanity or not, murder is still an option. Netflix’s big-budget new science fiction Altered Carbon, which begins on Friday, stars Joel Kinnaman as an interstellar soldier given a new sleeve after 250 years in cold storage and asked to solve the murder of a member of the super-rich one per cent played by James Purefoy.

It is the latest example of television’s growing interest in adult science fiction. While superheroes and robots still mostly rule on the big screen -–later this month Black Panther will be the latest Marvel character to get the cinematic treatment, while March sees the release of Pacific Rim: Uprising, a sequel to Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 monsters vs robots mash-up – online streaming channels are embracing more sophisticated, grown-up SF visions.

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From Black Mirror to The Handmaid’s Tale, TV science fiction is foregoing spandex and embracing complexity. The message, according to Altered Carbon’s original creator Richard Morgan is: “We are going to treat you like grown-ups.”

Morgan has waited 15 years for his novel to make the transition to television.

Although he now lives in East Anglia, where he was born and raised, in 2002, when Altered Carbon was first published, he was living in a flat in Shawlands in Glasgow and reeling over news that his novel had been optioned by Lethal Weapon producer Joel Silver.

Speaking to the Sunday Herald, he admits that he is glad it has taken so long to make the jump to the small screen.

“I don’t think there is any doubt if Warner Brothers had made the movie back in 2004 or something I would have had a huge payday, but the product would have been pretty anodyne. I think it would have been a CGI-fest. It would have been an extremely different movie than the book.”

The Netflix version, however, created by showrunner Laeta Kalogridis, is faithful to the novel and Morgan is delighted with the result.

“It is beautiful, it is very high spec, it looks like 10 hours of movie rather than TV and features incredible performances from all the cast, brilliant set building and special effects. It’s everything I could have wished.”

Kalogridis, best known as the screenwriter for Martin Scorsese’s film Shutter Island, has been trying to make Altered Carbon for seven years, first as a movie and then as a TV series. But her perseverance has paid off, with each episode of the 10-part series costing a reported $6 million budget it’s one of the most eye-catching future visions of recent years. It also uses the HBO template of using sex and violence to draw viewers into sophisticated, morally ambiguous drama. Altered Carbon explores the economic and moral consequences of a world where mortality, for some, is optional.

“We were trying very consciously to make this world feel as real as we could and as grounded as we could,” Kalogridis has said.

“One very consistent element in the Altered Carbon world is the continuation of the societal divide, and how it grows ever greater. The future here might be lovely for the people at the top, as they acquire and can do more and more, but the people below – those whose existence involves less and less – will have a much more nightmarish existence.”

“That’s especially true as the people at the top can never be removed, and can never die.

“One concentrated group of people hold onto all the resources, and hold onto the most precious resource, life itself, without ever letting go. Everything else, and everyone else, is raw material to be exploited. And because we all know that that is truly the worst of human nature, that aspect of the story feels hauntingly real.”

That is very much in line with Morgan’s original take on the future.

“Obviously I was exploring what the morality of this technology would be,” the author says “and because of the noir heritage I own up to that takes a fairly dim view of human nature.”

Morgan hopes the series is further proof that television is embracing the genre’s ability to take on big subjects in an intelligent way.

“I really feel that we’ve been living in a golden age of science fiction for quite a few years,” he says. “But there is still this YA tinge to it because of the blockbuster movies, the Marvel stuff and so forth.

“There is this slightly pervasive feeling of it being sanded down to suit young minds. And when I say young minds I mean 12-year-olds.

“I think that’s a great shame because obviously the whole point of science fiction is that it’s a genre that can deliver all sorts of fascinating and interesting insights. But to do that it has to be able to speak at an adult level.”

But as Morgan is the first to admit, there is nothing new about grown-up science fiction. Altered Carbon was itself inspired by the novels of cyberpunk author William Gibson and 1980s SF films such as Blade Runner and Alien, “movies made with an adult sensibility”.

Altered Carbon is also evidence of Netflix’s massive ongoing investment in TV drama, one that appears to be working. As well as its historical series The Crown, Netflix has been benefiting from its investment in SF series such as Stranger Things and Bright, starring Will Smith.

It recently announced that it has added 8.3 million subscribers in the three months to the end of December and this week saw its share valuation top the $1 billion mark.

As for Morgan, if the technology he imagined all those years ago was to suddenly come into existence, would he be up for downloading his consciousness?

“I’m 52 years old,” he says. “If I don’t go to the gym three times a week religiously I suddenly find I’m losing puff and getting stiff.

“Put me back into a 30-year-old body? Hell, yes.”