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

Paul Bracken. CreateSpace, $13.40 paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-4923-1090-7
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.
Reviewed on: 01/27/2014
Release date: 10/01/2013
Hardcover - 290 pages - 978-0-615-96860-5
Paperback - 290 pages - 978-0-615-95315-1
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