Ashkan is an active speaker, writer, workshop leader and consultant, who is also a scientist in the research labs of Uppsala University, within the fields of organic and medicinal chemistry. The core theme of his talk at TEDx Östersund is how the internet of things can improve societies and economies of all shapes and sizes, on a magnitude beyond our current imagination.
1. What is the biggest challenge the world’s population is facing?
In terms of urgency, peak oil: When we’re out of oil or when it becomes out of reach for the majority of us due to high prices. Perhaps it’s a good thing, because peak oil (and global warming) is driving the energy sciences forwards at blazing speeds. Also, it’d be a liberation, too. The planet will able to breathe again without all the pollution. Many wars will end. And hopefully, the next dominant energy source is an abundant one, ideally solar or hydrogen. The tricky part is that we need a replacement before the oil runs out, because without it at the moment, civilization stops. Including science and progress. But I believe mankind and science will solve this problem before it’s too late.
2. If you could travel back in time what year/event would you go back to, and
14 billion years back to watch the big bang (from a safe distance). I don’t need to explain why, do I?
3. Which of your personality traits do you think annoys people the most?
I either love or hate something (movies, games, ideas, food, etc.). There is no middle ground. And when I love something, I hype it to the point that the end up so high so the listener can’t even enjoy the damn thing. Or vice versa. It’s bad, very bad, but I’m working on it.
4. Of all the inventions in the world, which one would you liked to have
Quantum mechanics. It’s perhaps not an invention in itself, but the understanding of it somehwat is. I’d be lying if I said I understand even 0.1% of it. But the concept of it blows my mind. And the fact that it has resulted in more questions than answers about our world makes it even more beautiful. It’s as if the more we zoom inwards on the universe, the tinier it gets. The more we zoom outwards with telescopes, the bigger it gets. There is no end, no ultimate answer to end all quandaries and questions. That’s the most beautiful thing about our existence.
5. To what degree have you actually controlled the course your life take?
I mean, sure, I’ve fantasized about becoming a musician and scientist at one point or another (also astronaut, cab driver and maritime merchant). But the only things I’ve controlled have been my obsessions, e.g. “now I’m going to learn EVERYTHING about this music production software”. Earning a record deal was an uncontrollable consequence that came out of that obsession. The same goes for my obsession with carbon atoms and molecules: earning a PhD degree will merely be a consequence. I don’t know what my obsession in 10 years from now will be. So the answer is zero. Which is fine by me. As long as I can be happily obsessed with whatever I want, and as long as each obsession contributes something positive to mankind.