In the last chapter of my book, 2012: Extinction or Utopia, I make the case that instead of the world hurtling towards destruction, we actually have reason to be optimistic. In fact, I suggest that we actually could be heading into a golden age of mankind—not in some New Age spiritual enlightenment sort of way, but in a political, economic and social way. This has naturally led some people to ask me if I believe that a utopian world is really possible, and whether I'm not just living in some sort of delusional pie-in-the-sky world of sunshine and lollipops.

It's not an unreasonable question, especially considering all the problems on our planet. After all, we do have quite a few things to concern us, with terrorism, nuclear proliferation, climate change (colder or hotter? I forget which...) and the many real and imagined dangers that lurk around every corner. So how can I be an optimist?

The answer is simple: history. When we look at the whole range of human history—and especially the last century—I believe there is hope for optimism. How can I say that? Let's take a look at a few statistics (taken from my book):

Those who hold to the disintegrating society theory are unlikely to be impressed with these examples, but I submit their gloomy outlook can only be sustained by determinedly ignoring the judgment of history. While in many ways we are still a very brutal people but one mindless act away from exterminating ourselves, we are at the same time far less tolerant of those who diminish the value of human life, rape the environment, or practice injustice. It's not a perfect world that we seek, nor do I believe that human beings are perfectable. There will probably always be selfishness and cruelty and all the other unfortunate hallmarks of what it is to be human, but I do believe it is possible to create a world in which humanity respects itself and its environment, where it solves its problems through dialogue and hard work, and where each day brings it closer to realizing the potential that resides within it.

What would such a society look like? Imagine a world in which every nation was a representative democracy, where every constitution guaranteed basic human rights and civil liberties such as freedom of speech and religion. Where—as Dr. Martin Luther King once said—people will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Imagine a world where warfare was a historical anomaly taught in class but not a practical reality any longer. And picture a planet in which everyone had the same access to public education, healthcare, and opportunities for advancement. That's the sort of "utopia" I imagine and believe is possible.

Would there be no crime, no rape, no murder, no abuse in my little world? Probably not. Would there be no greed, materialism, selfishness, or cruelty on such a planet? Unlikely. People would still have to find their own way through life and struggle through the challenges fate and their own decisions places before them, for such is the stuff that makes us grow intellectually and spiritually. Some may fail in business or in their chosen professions because life does not come with guarantees (nor should it). Some may have less than others because they refuse to work for more, but that is their own decision. In these senses, then, mine may not be a utopia in the classical sense, but it would be enough to lay the foundation for an exciting future among the stars that is, in my opinion, not only our destiny, but our birthright. It may not happen in my lifetime, or within the lifetime of those reading these words, but it is a near certainty we will one day obtain, no matter how long it takes. We are the authors of our destiny; not fate, not the stars, and not even the gods. I believe we are just beginning to understand that, and once we fully appreciate it, we will find the strength within ourselves to create the sort of world we can be proud of. As such, I don't believe for a moment that the future is nearly as bleak and hopeless as many assume, nor do I consider hope and faith to be foolish ideals. I believe in tomorrow—however niave that may sound—and hold out hope that in some small way, I can help others find the confidence and assurance that humanity, for all its many flaws, is not on the verge of its own destruction but may, in fact, be standing at the threshold of a bright and remarkable future. Pie-in-the-sky? Maybe, but what sort of world do you want to live in? One of despair and fear or one of hope and faith in the future? It's all up to you.