"Dear Charles Handy,
I am too much of a coward to go punditing about the future, so a bit of me has always admired the chutzpah of anyone who could envision what the world will look like 10 years hence.
During the mid-1990s, this admiration was frequently called on as commentators sparred with prophesies of vanishing jobs and bleak visions of life in the disposable workforce. The other bit, though - let us call him 'the inner bureaucrat'- was never quite so sure. He spent his reading hours spluttering: "Well, we'll see about that", and "But?"
Now I find myself wondering whether the bureaucrat wasn't the fellow with the foresight - hence this letter. Looking back, don't you think you freaked everyone out a bit too much? Don't you think you owe us a kind of apology?
You are not alone. The other day, I got round to reading a famous book that was published in 1995, called The End of Work, by Jeremy Rifkin - I'm sure you know it. This argues that technology will delete humans as a major factor of production and lead to lengthening dole queues across the developed world. "For this reason," he wrote, "finding an alternative to formal work in the marketplace is the critical task for every nation on earth."
Maybe in 50 years he will be found to have been prescient. But at the moment, it doesn't look likely. Unem-ployment in the US (his primary concern) currently sits at 5.4 per cent - not fabulous, but better than it was in 1994 (6.6 per cent), and the 1980s average (7.3 per cent).
But the reason you are the subject of this letter, and not Jeremy Rifkin, or, for that matter, any one of a dozen lesser job-thieving divines, is that you always stood several notches above the crowd. It is not just that you are a better communicator, or a more generous-spirited human being, but your thoughts are bigger, too.
It is impossible to imagine any other guru ('social philosopher', if you insist) arguing as you did in The Elephant and the Flea (2001), that people should use their skills to their own advantage, rather than the advantage of indifferent companies by becoming 'fleas' (or self-employed in old money). You are, in short, sufficiently different, but sufficiently representative of that phase of 1990s futurology, to be worth the scrutiny of inner bureaucrats everywhere.
It is 10 years since The Empty Raincoat was published, which I think was your most significant book. I re-read it again recently, and all the old admi