In this webmaster video, Matt Cutts comments on backlinks. Backlinks are a very hot topic right now in SEO. With all the negative SEO, penalties and just generally gaming the system, the discussion around them is heated (as a side note, make sure to check out my article coming out on Search Engine Land this month about What you can do to Fight Negative SEO). So the question is raised, will backlinks always be important to SEO?
In the video, Cutts hints that they will be focusing more on things like author authority, and answering questions directly, opposed to backlinks. This makes a strong claim for increased importance in Google +, Schema.org markup and further development of the Google Knowledge Graph.
Conversational search is really the future. If you want to learn more about this, make sure to read my article on Hummingbird and Schema.org.
Overall, it does appear that backlinks will be important for at least 2 more years.