> there's a good chance that we've reached peak jobs and the number of people who need to work to provide for all goods and services will start to shrink.
I've spent the last several years working on the concept of Seed Factories ( http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/S... ). These are starter sets of core machines (lathe, solar furnace, modular robot, etc.), which are used to make parts for *more* machines, until you have a mature factory. This is similar to the way a biological seed grows into a mature tree. The mature factory then produces things people want and need. The growth and operation of the factory is mostly automated, working from stored design files.
The starter set is less expensive to buy than a full factory, and being mostly automated, less expensive to run. Groups of people can split the cost of the starter set, and tend to the growing factory part-time, in addition to regular jobs. As the factory grows, it can produce more products, and the owner/operators can work conventional jobs less. There will still be personal service type things, and some people will work because they enjoy the work, but basic stuff like food, housing, and utilities can all be automated away to a large degree.
I'm convinced this sort of transition is not just possible, but inevitable, because it has better economics than the old way of doing things, and better security. A regular factory will lay you off to save a buck. That doesn't happen if you are part owner. It could go 100% automated, and you still get the stuff you need. During the transition period, it gives people a fall back position if they lose their main job. They just go work at "their factory" instead, while looking for another paid job.