Links will always be a important part of the internet. Google first introduced the idea of using links as a metric of measuring quality of a webpage. This concept changed the internet forever as before search engines would only be able to give results based on on page seo factors that could easily be cheated.
Recently webmasters thanks to so many updates by google that has seen many good quality websites drop form the search engines are demanding that links should not be used by search engines to rank sites anymore. However it is important to point out that this will never be the case as it is no longer the 90’s even though search engines and technology has improved dramatically since. If search engines did drop links to rank sites you would see a lot lot more spammy website filling up the search results as people would not be building content for users anymore to gain natural links from other websites but they would be filling it up with content that will be more likely to gain higher rankings for example trying to write articles that contain just the right amount of keyword in it or just making pointlessly long content in order just to rank higher.
No computer can read context and this is why search engines quickly dropped using just on page seo factors to rank websites and quickly followed google in using off page links to judge quality of a website.
Some webmasters may argue that links are easily manipulated from spam links and bought paid links that pass link juice but if google and other search engines forget about links you would see a lot more manipulating and no algorithm would be able to properly and accurately pick up this manipulation. It would deeply upset the online world and media as the only results you would be able to find on search engines would be that of websites that have manipulated the search engine the best by using the right amount of keyword density, the right word count, the right semantics and such.
This is why link building and links will always be a integral part of the internet and search engines will never be “dead”!