Pier Forni "The Thinking Life"

Pier Forni "The Thinking Life"

P.M. Forni on why he wants as many people as possible to get serious about serious thinking.

In a world increasingly dominated by digital media it’s often hard to find the space to think. Our time is overtaken with emails, texts, and surfing and shopping on the internet. So much so, that according to author P.M. Forni, we are in a “crisis” when it comes to thinking. His latest book, “The Thinking Life” provides a remedy to this age of distraction and lessons in how to rediscover the art of serious thinking. He draws on the wisdom of classical philosophers as well as everyday situations to explains how we can successfully think our way through an increasingly complex world and live a better life.


Pier Forni

Program Highlights

Americans spend hours each day using digital media, but many of us complain we can't find a few minutes to think. That comes as no surprise to author P.M. Forni, who says thinking has become a casualty of the digital revolution. His new book "The Thinking Life: How to Thrive in an Age of Distraction," aims to help people become more "serious" and careful thinkers.

Are We Really Thinking Less Than We Used To?

Though he says there isn't much scientific data available to prove that we are actually thinking less than we used to, Forni cites survey data and anecdotal evidence that support this conclusion. For instance, college students today report spending about 15 hours per week studying; back in 1961 they reported studying for 25 hours per week. Executives and superviors report spending about 3 to 4 percent of their time at work thinking about long-term procedures and activities for employees and for their companies. Many of these executives, Forni said, say they're frustrated that they don't have more time to think more deeply and thoroughly.

Online Distractions

Part of the problem, according to Forni, is the distractions we must either learn to tune out or control in the digital age. "A large amount of time in which we are engaged online is dedicated to things that are not really crucial, that are trivial in many cases," he said. "We become what we think...if we spend many hours in things that are essentially irrelevant or trivial, well, that changes who we are, and it changes our cognitive abilities."

"We Shy Away From Important Issues"

Aside from being constantly distracted by trivial matters, Forni believes we latch on frivolous thoughts or daydreams, too. We spend more time thinking about how we're going to spend our annual vacation days than about planning the rest of our lives. Some of this is human nature. Forni also laments what he sees as a lack of critical thinking skills currently being taught in American schools. Especially among youth, Forni thinks that "connecting" - mainly on social media - can be mistaken for "thinking," but it isn't. He thinks children don't read enough today, and for him, weak readers are weak thinkers.

Conflict Between Retrival and Retention

Forni thinks that the way stuents think about knowledge itself has changed. "Our students today think of the acquiring of knowledge as retrival. And we, the older generation, still think about the acquiring of knowledge as retention," he said. Forni looks at the culture of the Internet as perpetuating the culture of retrival. He fears that we believe we don't have the time to absorb and solidify any knowledge properly, and that we quickly forget what we have learned from what we've read online. Forni suggests meditation and better training of young students in critical thinking as ways to move us toward becoming a nation of more serious thinkers.

You can read the full transcript here.

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