Well, not THAT old, but old enough to remember that newfangled "desktop publishing" craze, followed by the hosting craze followed by the web design craze and now followed by the SEO craze.
I think there are some similarities, if you will be kind enough to follow along with me.
There comes a point with almost every technology based skill set where it dies, merges with something else, or becomes specialized. Sometimes all three. It's the nature of the beast, and part and parcel with progress.
When desktop publishing came along, I was still manually typing news stories into a Linotype machine, having it printed in a big roll by a custom print shop, then using an Exacto knife to cut the roll into columns, and pasting them onto a big, newspaper sized board. If there was a spelling error we painfully cut out individual letters and corrected them letter by letter (not a job for the clumsy!). For photos, we had to send things off to a PMT shop to turn the photograph into dots, which was after we took the photo in black and white and developed it in our own darkroom. Turnaround time for even small changes was measured in hours or days.
Then along came this little Macintosh computer with an 8"x8" inch black and white screen, a program called Pagemaker, and the joy of Adobe, a fairly unknown company that specialized mostly in fonts . And a laser printer! Suddenly, all the skill needed for the old process went out the window, and the skills needed for the new one were far easier to attain, with better and faster results.
The next thing you know, it seemed like everyone was a "desktop publisher". You would see signs up on lampposts, ads in newspapers and so forth. It was the high time of public publishing. And with it came some severe growing pains. People with no training, a love of technology and a desire to get rich quick began calling themselves "desktop publishers" and there began a severe decline in a lot of skills in the industry. The same skilled people were still there, but were drowned out by those who would use 12 font types on the same page, had no color sense, and switched clip art styles with gleeful abandon.
The promise of "publishing for the people" quickly became claims that publishing was a dead art, and there was a lot of evidence to support it. But that didn't happen. Why? Because, to use a Darwinian metaphor, the weak were eaten.
Technology didn't stop at Pagemaker and laser printers. The DTP programs became cheaper and easier to use, laser printers became cheaper, newfangled "inkjet" printers became common, and WYSIWYG came to word processing (boy, did THAT cause an uproar! You are not supposed to mix content and presentation, didn't you know )
Suddenly, almost anyone could do simple DTP. It was so simple that no one would pay the so-called DTP types to do something for a lot of money that they could do better and for free/cheap. Most DTP types left for greener pastures.
But some stayed, the best ones. And they formed dedicated shops with high quality printers and demanded the highest quality skill sets in design and typography. Today, they flourish. I don't think twice about printing my own documents off, but I go to a printer for my business cards, rather than use an inkjet, for example.
In short, while it was happening, it looked like technology had created a new industry. In hindsight, it actually transformed the old one into something new.
The same type of thing happened to website hosting. At first, you needed expert knowledge in ISDN modem technology, and the technical skills required to keep a server running and connected were huge. It was a time for highly skilled technicians. Then along came linux packages and apache, internet connections became cheaper, and front ends made things easier. Suddenly "everyone" was a web host. Turns out that it's not so easy to make money if your skills are marginal, you don't invest a lot, and the competition is extremely intense.
Once again, what happened was that a lot of low end hosting is now done in-house, and when people go outside, they look for companies with multiple dedicated redundant connections, tons of technology, and extremely competent staff. The middle men have mostly died out, and spend a lot of time either bottom feeding or offer it was a part of a much larger package of services. The days of the "web host" operating from his basement are over. There are a few holdouts (like me, and I'm slowly allowing attrition to get rid of my clients) but most are gone.
I can see web design going the same way (it's near the tail end) and I believe SEO is heading there right now. It's almost time for the shakedown. 2 years tops.
I predict, based of previous experience, that a lot of what people call "SEO" today will disappear and simply become part of the web design toolset. The so-called "SEO's" that offer to "fix your metatags", who believe that you can achieve long term goals by running a script you bought (as if no one else will buy the same script!) and so forth, will move on to the Next Big Thing (thank god!) and those that have true skills will consolidate and specialize.
A lot of the basic stuff will be done by users, software programs will come "out of the box" with spider friendly designs and tools, and most of the low end "easy fix" stuff will be done by web designers and owners.
I suspect, for example, most of the members of this forum are not "SEO's" but rather people learning how to do SEO for their own sites and maybe to use the basics for their design clients. And good for them! I think they will be the agents of destruction for the pseudo-seos that most people complain about today. Not any kind of "ethical revolution" or central organization. Pure Darwinian selection of the simple and effective over the expensive and weak.
However, the skills necessary to do high end campaigns, to compete in very competitive markets, to keep up with the latest changes in the industry - those will still be needed, and will remain in demand. SEO as a professional service will do very well, and will be run mostly by professionals.
The public will take over the easy stuff, the specialists will deal with the hard stuff, and the parasites in the middle will (mostly - it's hard to kill a parasite) go away.
SEO is dead (or dying) ... Long Live SEO!