Good post, I agree with most of your comments.
Die maker here since late 70's, owned 2 shops, freelance die designed for 12 years.
As per the dinosaur handle, & the pattern makers before us......it was inevitable!
Tool shops have searched for a means to reduce their largest expense, labour, since way before I was in the trade.
CNC's & solid modeling did it for them/us.
Unfortunately it also reduced the level of shop floor skill, & the # of die makers required to complete a given project.
I learned to build dies from pencil drawings and manual machines. As you well know that level of skill is NOT required in modern tool shops utilizing CNC milling, wire/laser cutting, etc.
My die makers earned 100K + per year back in the early 90's when we just started to implement CNC's, & as a shop we were extremely profitable (+40% net).
As you also know, tooling prices have plummeted in the past 10 years forcing the shops to find further means to reduce their costs. I know of some die shops who take full advantage of the times & out source all the machine work, only to assemble & prove the tool.
Just my .02!