What is your name?
Earl Joseph Wagner
Where were you born?
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Where do you live?
Berkeley, California, USA, and sometimes Chicago, Illinois, USA.
What do you do?
I’m a software engineer at Google working in artificial intelligence. I create software that thinks about situations with the kind of common sense that people have. I’m currently working on a system that guides a user in following instructions for a task. For example, you can imagine following an online recipe and reaching a step that you find unclear. In the future, you may be able to click on the step and see a more detailed explanation from another recipe for the same dish. For the software to present that, it would have to understand how the steps of the two recipes correspond, and that’s what I’m working on.
What is your role of the IEA Board?
I’m working on updating our uses of technology, and find new and more helpful ways for us to use software.
Tell us a little about what you do on the Board
Since I joined in late 2014, I’ve been working with Brian Mitchell-Walker, Lynda Roberts, and Sandy Hatmaker to revamp the IEA website. We’ve been reviewing the features of the current website, planning new functionality, and interviewing prospective web developers. I’m excited about how things are coming together for the new site and I look forward to sharing more as we progress.
Why are you involved with the IEA Board?
Since I began attending the IEA conference several years ago, I’ve really enjoyed the insights and connections with others in the Enneagram community. That’s something I’m wanting to contribute to, and help other people experience as well.
What was your first experience of the Enneagram?
I first learned about the Enneagram when I was a PhD student in Chicago. At the time I was having a tough time collaborating with some of the professors and agreeing on how to proceed with the research. In retrospect I see that’s because we were motivated in really different ways. I read Riso and Hudson’s orange “Personality Types” book at the time and it really opened my eyes. It helped me see what was going on more clearly, and I noticed some of the patterns that we all were engaged in. That awareness gave me choice in how I approached the situation and it really helped in turning things around. I went on to collaborate more effectively with my advisor, finish my PhD, and graduate.
Tell us a little about who you have trained with
I’ve trained with Russ Hudson and the teachers of the Enneagram Institute, and Katherine Chernick and David Fauvre. I’ve also attended the workshops of various other teachers including, recently, Mario Sikora. While living in Chicago, I participated in many of the weekend workshops at Loyola organized by Jerry Wagner (no relation). They offered a great opportunity to learn from folks like Helen Palmer, David Daniels and Curt Micka, Tom Condon, Judith Searle, Bea Chestnut and others.
What is your most useful/interesting/amusing/compelling use of the Enneagram?
Often someone will say or do something that leaves me surprised – it’d never occur to me to say or do that. Yet in that moment, it made sense to them, and I find it really fascinating to try to understand it from their perspective. I recently saw a presentation by Amanda Palmer, the singer of the band the Dresden Dolls. She made an offhand remark about what she called her “fraud police.” It’s an inner voice that pushes her to be emotionally honest whenever possible. It’s interesting because that phrase doesn’t resonate for me. I just don’t have that sense that expressing my emotional experience is a matter of self-connection and integrity in the same way. It’s more like, “well, what’s my goal here and does it make sense to share how I’m feeling?” I’ve mentioned it to several fours though, who have told me “oh yeah, that’s definitely there” for them.
What do the words “Engagement,” “Education‚” and “Excellence‚” mean to you?
I see engagement in terms of how the IEA supports our members and also represents the Enneagram to the larger community of enthusiasts as well as the general public. While our closest and most vital connection is with our members, I think we can balance this with being a resource to the general Enneagram community.
I see several sides of education. Our professional members are both teachers and learners, and we see this most clearly in the energy at our annual conference. More broadly, I’m optimistic about how we can apply technology in new ways. I’m excited to help members share their teaching beyond the conference to those unable to attend, and those in the global Enneagram community.
I also take seriously the role of the IEA as the only nonpartisan organization representing the various Enneagram approaches worldwide. Our annual conference has long brought together teachers and students of different schools. I see this intrinsic diversity as a essential part of the excellence the IEA fosters.
How do you see the future of the Enneagram?
One thing that really stands out to me is how younger people are learning about the Enneagram. Many take an eclectic approach, picking and choosing among various teachers’ books and workshops. It’s been especially fascinating to see how they’ve taken to the emerging work on instincts and subtypes, and also the Fauvres’ Tritype theory.
It’s also been inspiring to discover how people connect the Enneagram and other approaches. I do this as well, combining my interests in the Enneagram and Nonviolent Communication (NVC). Through NVC, I have learned ways to communicate more authentically and compassionately. Inspired by the two approaches, I co-presented a session introducing NVC to the Enneagram community at the 2014 IEA conference. At the 2015 conference, I’ll be facilitating a session where we go deeper into how NVC provides a model for understanding the range of motivations underlying the Enneagram types.
Overall, I enjoy seeing the cross-fertilization of various approaches, both within the Enneagram community and also among the Enneagram and other modalities for self-discovery and understanding.
How do you see the future of the IEA?
I think we can build on our past while evolving to meet the challenges of the future. Through new technology, I think we can help our professional members apply and share the Enneagram even more effectively.