The Road to 2050 — a masterclass

At Tech23, we flexed our imaginations to position our companies with the wind on our backs.

Phil Morle
4 min readAug 5, 2023

Some people think it is futile to think about the future because however hard we try to predict what will happen, that’s not what happens.

Well, that’s true. But.

Imagining stories about what might happen allows us to explore different possible futures, both opportunities and threats. We can throw what we are building against an imaginary future to see if that future could make things better or worse.

We explored this together in a masterclass for Cicada’s Tech23. About 50 deep tech founders came together to imagine what might happen next. It was an opportunity to escape our reactive days and immerse ourselves in our imaginations.

The founders gathered from companies in decarbonisation, materials, food, quantum computing, biotech, healthcare and AI.

Here’s what we did.

The Masterclass

We split into groups, each representing a ‘technology force’ that we thought would impact the planet in the next 30 years. The forces matched the startups with technologies around decarbonisation, AI, healthcare, quantum, and bioengineering.

The first task was to start populating the Forces to 2050 canvas.

The canvas has three swim lanes. One to collect the milestones we thought each technology might introduce to the world, one to collect geopolitical events, and one to collect social change. We would do this across timelines that were close (the next two years), visible (the next ten years) and possible (the next 30 years) — getting us to 2050.

We chose 2050 because companies and countries are setting 2050 targets today, largely driven by climate change.

The first imaginative flex

The first question we asked ourselves was what we believed the average temperature increase would be by 2050. This required each group to imagine how our response to climate change might play out over the next few decades.

This was our first imaginative flex as groups. Can we imagine an outcome on a timeline and provide a narrative behind it?

Most people believed that we would be 2 degrees plus, more than the 1.5-degree target. How did we get there? What plays out between now and then? This served as a foundation — an initial hypothesis — around which we built the rest of our story.

Technology forces

We then built out what we thought each technology force (by group) could deliver in the next 30 years. There were experts in each group, so there was a good-enough basis to make some predictions.

As we shared these back, it was fascinating to see how a group thinking about one technology force was informed by another. e.g. in a world where quantum computers start to become useful beyond the capabilities of classical systems, what becomes possible in healthcare?

Already we could see that we were normally in our own silos and not considering a world of other changes happening around us. That’s what the next section begins to challenge.

Because of this…

We spent some time exploring “Because of this…” as an enquiry around some of the events on our canvas. If certain events take place, what is possible in other technology streams? What might happen geopolitically? What might happen in society?

When we shared back our stories, we experienced a complex system of change that was ahead of us. It will likely be different to the stories we told today, but we have begun to understand how we might pay attention to the world around our core work and position our companies in a context where the wind is at our back and not preventing us from moving.

How many startups fail because they got the timing wrong? We build technology solutions from the comfort of our own speciality and too often ignore the world around us.

This exercise opened our minds to placing our companies in an arena where we would more likely be successful.

Feel free to take this for a spin with your team. Canvasses are available for copying here.

CSIRO Futures joined us and will share back a story that emerged in the masterclass. Watch this space.


I am a deep tech investor, and I’m building out loud. Subscribe here or follow me @philmorle

Originally published at on August 5, 2023.



Phil Morle

Deep tech VC — Main Sequence Ventures. Ecosystem builder. Maker. Director. Startup Scientist.