Interesting essay. I can imagine its future. But, I doubt it as being a likely world line in spacetime.
If one were keywording it for search, some of the words in that metatag would, I assume be, fine art photography. I want to discuss the fine art part.
One thing I have noticed, and I consider it nearly an axiom, is:
What is a significant means of recordation and communication, when superceded by a means that is easier either in execution or quicker or more accurate, the older means becomes an artistic means of expression.
Technologies of information recordation or communication seldom totally disappear. Rather they become less widespread, and archaic, and are practiced by a smaller group, labeled "artists".
Sculpture and wall/base reliefs.
Ancient cultures used it for literal communication to people, and representation of and communication with unseen but believed to exist entities. Rising labor costs and expanded literacy have pretty much pushed that role of sculpture away (other than in some religious uses yet, and things like war memorials, etc.).
Sculpture, freed of its utilitarian role, also developed abstract forms. It also became firmly established as "art".
Originally also used for communication and recordation. Portrait of the third earl of______, or The Battle of ___________. It also started as a decorative craft, then slowly moved to expressive abstraction. With the advent of photography in th3 1800's, painting moved (with the exception of portraits for those better off) totally to art.
The first photos considered art, where "pictorialist" (imitative of painting) black and white. Then, as color developed, (pardon the pun. Color equaled more "information" & greater "accuracy"), B&W nearly immediately became "abstract", and to this day, B&W photography is still more widely consided "artistic" than colour.
Also, consider method/gear. Film-chemical workflow is, collector-wise now more "artistic" than digital capture-digital workflow. So called alternative processes (i.e., 19th century photographic technology) is highly valued.
The more eye-hand coordination in "real" space necessary, and less automated and basic the process, the more "artistic" it is considered by museums, galleries, collectors.
The advancement of video technology in the market place (remember, the primary use of "imaging" by the consumer masses is the saving of memory of significant people and events), with its higher recordation of information, and percieved accuracy of the representation, (along the lines i am discussing) will accelerate the move to "art" for pigment on paper prints.
The acceptance of pigment on paper prints, from digital workflow is already entering the art world. The advances in screen technologies, mass storage, digital video, miniaturization for consumers (the still picture keychain will become the video key chain, etc.) will push not only digital workflow prints, but still imagery itself firmly into the realm of "fine art", eventually. Probably, sooner than we think.
Assuming for the sake of discussion, that technological advancement in recordation and communication for utilitarian purposes continues, the paper photograph will join truly be perceived, by nearly all, as "fine art", along with sculpture, painting, etc.