One premise that may need re-examination is that the earth doesn't have enough resources and space. A relatively small percentage of the earth is saturated with people, so there is lots of space to go around for the medium term of earth's future. What we are more constrained on are resources, and space does come into play there in terms of farm land, etc. But even there, the maximum potential of the earth to produce food is quite enormous. And while significant areas are currently unusable for food production (ex. the Sahara Desert), it's possible that in the future some of those areas may be transformed into productive areas.
On the energy front, there is still quite a bit of uncertainty about the future. Will nuclear fusion be a big player? Will solar efficiencies and costs come way down? While I may be an optimist, my sense is that it is likely given the rapid advancement of technology that in the long term we will have much more energy available per capita than we do today. Given the huge surface area of the earth, and the incredible amount of energy that shines on the earth each day, it's hard for me to imagine an energy scarce long term future, even with a population far greater than we have today. To talk specifics, imagine a "fully automated" solar infrastructure where the factory that produces the panels is 100% automated, the installation of panels is fully automated, the process of receiving orders and scheduling them is fully automated, etc. And imagine that at massive scale. That possibility alone, even with 20% efficient panels, is quite significant.
On the flip side, thinking about curing the aging process. I'm highly skeptical that any one "trick" is going to stop the aging process. Yes, a discovery could be made that suddenly increases life spans to an average of 200 years or 1000 years, but I find it unlikely that human life spans could be extended beyond 10,000 years any time soon. I think the most important point, though, is that it seems very unlikely for human life spans to be infinite. Even if they are 10,000 years, that is very different than infinite.
Another thing to consider is that with very long (but finite) life spans, the birth rate still needs to be 2 births per couple in order for the population of the earth not to decrease. It just means that your child rearing years become an increasingly short period of your life.
Yet another important factor here is that for a long time now people have had the ability to choose how many children they have. Routinely in developed countries men get "snipped" after a couple has 2-3 kids. If we lived in a world where the average life span was 10,000 years, I think the most important change would be added social responsibility to get "snipped" after having a second child. And if people chose to have additional children, there might need to be some kind of financial cost (etc) so that people are appropriately incentivised to act in altruistic ways when planning family sizes. Such possibilities aren't really "pretty", but they're not exactly distopian if you ask me.
What is most likely? Here are my best guesses for the future:
- In the next century
- Life spans increase further towards 200 years
- The developing world's GDP grows very significantly, including food production (net positive food production)
- The global birth rate drops very significantly, partly due to wealthy people having fewer kids, partly because of "social responsibility"
- Automation and intelligent systems for the most part handle increases in world population, etc. (ex. making solar power much cheaper)
- Further out
- Life spans increase beyond 200 years, but 10,000 years
- Diminishing returns: Further advances in life expectancy take longer to be made
- The earth provides abundant energy via solar (as it does now, just not harnessed)
- The earths surface is highly utilized (as opposed to now)
- Couples have on average about 2 children, and their child rearing years become a smaller and smaller percentage of their lives
- Significant social responsibility to get snipped after 2 kids. Social incentives to limit family size.
All in all, my sense is that increased life spans don't automatically imply a distopian future, and in fact I think it's unlikely that they imply a distopian future.
One facit of this that makes me sad, however, is that I wonder whether abortion will become more and more common in the future. I'm on the side of the fence that views abortion as a terrible thing, so increased abortion rates are not a happy thought...