Finally, consider the things that people do want to spend their money on. The defining consumer product of our age is the smartphone. A smartphone is a good, and it takes resources to make and transport it. Still, it takes a lot less resources than, say, a car. Most of its value is in the software that is loaded onto it and the people, information and entertainment you can connect to with it. That's a different sort of value creation than 20th-century resource-based value creation. If that's the direction the global economy is headed in, the connections between growth, trade and resource consumption aren't going to be the same as they have been. That is probably a good thing.Smart phone growth seems to be plateauing as well judging by how badly Samsung seems to be doing.
It is as if nearly everyone that wants a smart phone has one. The new phones are not compelling enough to get people to abandon their old phone for something new. They are slightly bigger with a better camera or something but nothing world changing.
Even mighty Apple seems to be following the trend with their huge iPad which seems to be very much like the Surface. Nothing I saw at their big new products day makes me want to own anything they are selling at the moment. I have an Apple TV already and it is called a Roku. Maybe Apple TV will become a must have device in the future but I don't see it right now. Apple TV seems like the Apple Watch for the living room.
Also from what I can gather people just aren't rushing out to acquire more physical stuff. They do want digital stuff in the form of apps and HD video from Netflix but they don't want a new car or a new refrigerator (unless theirs breaks.) They seem to want clothes but the big ticket item just doesn't seem to fly off the shelves like they did before the Great Recession.
So we keep having tepid growth because it takes far less resources and manpower to make digital stuff. You can pay the actors and the grips and such to produce a TV show but that is nothing compared to all the people that work to produce something like a refrigerator or a car. Compare making an app with making a microwave. Making an app takes much less physical manpower and but more mental and digital effort from far less people. So if people want the app (which is free) and not the microwave the economy will suffer accordingly.