Apart from the fun bit, links are the foundation of the web and Google knows it can't just ignore it. Links will keep being important in the algorithm for quite a while IMHO.
I think that is the reason many spammy sites have managed to fool all of Google's animals and reach a link threshold where with no effort they can get to the top of very competitive SERPs even with 2-page WordPress site.
Even though one might suggest thats an easy one to spot for Google, that is clearly not the case even with Penguin 2.0. Google is vulnerable to links and for years I've been guessing that there is a threshold where links do count even if they are total spam.
So Matt is now talking heavily on authorship and guest blogging etc. I would guess these are the types of links they are after as blackhatters are already in the authorship game heavily.
As always (have labelled Matt Cutts as Google's Chief Misinformation Officer - nothing personal Matt) he wants to divert attention of the SEO community to stuff that doesn't matter or matter a little bit. So all these authorship and blogging crap and wonderful "marketing" ideas he is on about are the next Penguin targets.
My clients are ranking fine with or without authorship signals, so do the spammers and that is a fact. Quality links is what will get you ranking in the long-term, not an authoritative Google+ account...