Gilgamesh in the 21st Century: A Personal Quest to Understand Mortality

Gilgamesh in the 21st Century: A Personal Quest to Understand Mortality

by Paul Bracken
     
 

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"Must I die?" asked Gilgamesh. Forty five centuries later, we're still asking the same question. Science writer Paul Bracken embarks on a lighthearted assessment of the human condition, to explore what it means to be mortal, and what our fate may be. This scientific reimagining of the ancient Gilgamesh quest delves into a multitude of topics including the origin of…  See more details below

Overview

"Must I die?" asked Gilgamesh. Forty five centuries later, we're still asking the same question. Science writer Paul Bracken embarks on a lighthearted assessment of the human condition, to explore what it means to be mortal, and what our fate may be. This scientific reimagining of the ancient Gilgamesh quest delves into a multitude of topics including the origin of life, the workings of the human mind, and the possibilities for life prolongation.

The ancient Gilgamesh was so distraught at the death of his friend Enkidu, and so sickened by the knowledge that he too would die, that he rebelled against his fate and set out on a search for salvation. Likewise, at the age of eleven, Bracken wondered if there might be a way to bring his grandfather back from the dead and has been pondering this question ever since. Is death a problem to be solved, or is it an essential aspect of our humanity?

"We human beings instinctively resist the notion of personal extinction. In his thoughtful and hugely readable Gilgamesh in the 21st Century, Paul Bracken canters effortlessly through an amazing range of science to help put this fraught human proclivity in perspective, both for himself and for us."
-- IAN TATTERSALL, American Museum of Natural History, New York City.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
01/27/2014
In the ancient Sumerian epic Gilgamesh, the eponymous fifth king of Uruk asks the question that has haunted humanity since its beginnings—“Must I die?”—and then sets out to discover the secret of immortality. Of course, he never finds it, and death comes to Gilgamesh as it does to all. In this meandering meditation, Bracken, a former regional coordinator for space-exploration NGO the Planetary Society, uses the epic poem to anchor reflections on science, religion, artificial intelligence, and extraterrestrial life. Lacking clarity and focus, Bracken’s often-exasperating study asks what Gilgamesh might discover today if he used the tools of science to answer his question. Devoting little attention to the ancient tale, Bracken sifts through scientific evidence and suggests that humans may eventually be able to “transfer the mind of a human being into a newly constructed brain,” placing a “person’s identity beyond the reach of death.” Since, according to Bracken, such advances aren’t likely to be feasible anytime soon, contemporary readers must live with the uncertainty of Gilgamesh’s question.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781492310907
Publisher:
CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date:
10/08/2013
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)

Meet the Author

For more than eleven years, Paul Bracken served as Ireland's Regional Coordinator for The Planetary Society, and worked with Carl Sagan to promote space exploration and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. He lives in California with his wife and two children.

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