One of the methods to generate the idea of a science fiction story is to imagine that something impossible became possible, and build up a story about the opportunities that open up. Herbert Wells used this method often. His "The Invisible Man", "The Time Machine", etc. are built upon the opportunities (for both good and bad) that discovery of making matter invisible or traveling in time or something else open up.
Altshuller also resorted to this method. Once he decided to examine the ramifications of an assumption that immortality becomes possible. He offered me to join in the brainstorming.
- To whom grant immortality ? - he asked. I was caught off guard and answered: "To everyone".
- To everyone ? - Altshuller questioned, - to criminals, to madmen ? Even if immortality is only granted to normal people it is too much. The population starts growing exponentially. How to sustain the exponential population growth ?
- May be forbid women from giving birth ? - I suggested.
- Mankind would stagnate then, - Altshuller replied, - Most people are only creative in youth. Granting immortality to everyone and forbidding women from giving birth will eventually result in a society unable to innovate and advance.
I had nothing to say. So I sat silently.
- Here is what I am thinking about, - Altshuller said after some pause, - Immortality should not be granted to anyone. But a second life term should be granted to people that significantly advanced mankind during their first term. Creativity of great people does not wane with time (unless they become frail). But granting them the second term will prevent them from aging and becoming frail.
- And what is about the third term ? - I asked - What if a person greatly contributed to advancing mankind during his second term too.
Grant him a third term ? And then fourth, fifth, etc ?
Another question also popped up in my head: who will decide who significantly advanced and who did not? And I thought that this would result in an incredible corruption and fight amongst people, who would strive to bribe The Immortality Granting Authority and ascribe to themselves the achievements of others. But I kept my doubts to myself.
I don't know whether Altshuller composed a science fiction story as a result of this exercise or not. But the reason I decided to share my recollections is this. He had been compiling the list of science fiction plots over many years but surprisingly did not compile the list of methods to generate such plots. May be there are simply not a many methods and the method described here is just one of a few. Anyway, it is a good point to investigate. And this is a memo.