"For the last couple decades, however, growth in the industrialized world has slowed down."
China, apparently, not being part of the "industrialized world".
"The enormous growth the United States enjoyed after World War II will never recur. It was a one-time-only occurrence. ...
And it’s not just a problem for the United States."
Why is it a "problem" if the U.S. never again experiences the explosive growth in consumption which occurred after WWII?
“The economic revolution of 1870 to 1970 was unique in human history, unrepeatable because so many of its achievements could happen only once.”
This does not mean we have run out of future achievements and exhausted all kinds of revolutions.
"Gordon’s argument revolves around the relationship between innovation and productivity."
And assumes a direct relationship between productivity and quality of life.
"Eventually, however, the IT revolution stopped boosting productivity so dramatically and, arguably, started to detract from it through such time sucks as Facebook and Angry Birds."
Because, it would seem, the entire multi-billion dollar gaming and social network industries don't figure into the productivity metrics. This is every bit as dumb as saying the productivity associated with the automobile was eroded by all the leisure pursuits people started using automobiles for.
"Gordon identifies six “headwinds” that make future growth less likely, at least for the United States. We’re no longer able to take advantage of the baby boomer bump"
There is no necessary coupling between rapid population growth and rising standard of living. Some countries have had high growth rates and sustained high rates of poverty, and China had the inverse of a baby boomer bump prior to their economic revolution.
"Or women entering the workforce in large numbers."
Because all the labor women supplied in support of others before that didn't count as "work" or "productivity".
"We already benefited from the explosion of higher education, and now students face a huge debt load."
We have not even come close to reaching higher education saturation, the debt load is a manufactured burden, and there are large and growing fields of education which would only minimally contribute to "productivity" anyway.
"Then there’s rising inequality,"
Another manufactured condition. And for this to help his "one time only" thesis, Gordon has to establish that this inequality is inherently irreversible.
This has not been an impediment to productivity, nor is it clear that it ever will be.
Gordon argues that the rise of the automobile was a boon to growth because it helped to get products into the hands of more people. Globalization is the same phenomenon on a larger scale, and somehow it's an impediment to growth?
"and the erosion of the manufacturing sector,"
Erosion in some places, massive growth in others.
"and the huge amount of debt held at both the household and governmental level."
Debt to whom? To people who have been given license to lend money created out of thin air. Another manufactured condition.
"Yes, of course, inventions on the horizon like artificial intelligence could prove to be transformative."
That will almost certainly be preceded by a revolution in machine automation--which can occur at comparatively modest levels of machine intelligence.
"But the evidence so far suggests that such innovations will produce jobless growth — think: automation — and not provide the same lift for the poor and middle class as earlier industrial revolutions."
In the early days of computers, it was thought that they too would produce jobless growth. Indeed, it was expected they would simply displace jobs, benefiting only the large corporations who could afford them by letting them slash their work force and payrolls. What happened instead was that the technology came down in price, it became widely available, regular people gained new capabilities, and whole new markets, products, and industries sprang into existence. Automation is primarily being used in industrial manufacturing now, but it's becoming better, more affordable, and more widely available. It's already trickling down into smaller companies, and there is no reason to assume it can't follow the same trajectory as computers.
"All those fossil fuels certainly have made us rich and powerful. But ultimately, they may simply grant humanity a single wish: to choose the way we die. As importantly, the genie comes out of the bottle only once. We are not currently busy burying dinosaurs and massive ferns to create another cache of fossil fuels for some future generation. What we have — whenever it does run out — is all we have."
1847 was the year of peak oil from sperm whales--the best machine oil of the period. We didn't do anything to ensure a cache of sperm oil for future generations. What we did instead was simply replace it with something else. We'll do the same with fossil fuels.
"Perhaps if we use them wisely, these fossil fuels will serve as a bridge to a technology, such as solar or fusion, that can provide comparable amounts of energy."
Solar will never provide comparable amounts of energy. Fission fuels--notably omitted here--contain orders of magnitude more energy than the Earth's entire repository of fossil fuels ever did.
"Either way, the enormous benefits that have accrued from fossil fuels provide a one-time boost in economic growth."
Which does not rule out future boosts from other fuels, some of which are so abundant they will be literally inexhaustible for us.
"“Sustainable growth” just won’t cut it. We have to come up with something that redefines growth,"
Or how about we stop using commercial productivity as the sole metric of growth and growth as the sole metric of progress? (where progress is presumed or defined to be 'change for the better') There are forms of growth unrelated to production. There are forms of progress unrelated to growth or production--sometimes even inversely related (increased leisure time vs. production, improved international relations vs. military production, improved heathcare vs. all the commercial health industry parasites, etc.) There may be specific kinds of growth which we will not be able to repeat or sustain indefinitely, but there is no reason to suppose the task of improving quality of life and making the world a better place cannot itself be sustained indefinitely.