Charles Gutjahr

Melbourne, Australia

Welcome to my website. It's a collection of my photos, writing, opinions, presentations from me, Charles Gutjahr. More about me...

Charles Gutjahr

A short opinion

We're still not close to equality in technology

We need to do more to attract and retain women in technology. In Australia less than a quarter of IT graduates are women, and that ratio has actually gotten worse: it has dropped since 2001 when I graduated.

Not only is it imbalanced at the start, I reckon that more of my female friends from uni have dropped out of the IT industry than my male friends. So it's not just up to schools and educators to fix this... the industry has to work on it too.

That industry, by the way, is us. A number of you are managers and have some power in the IT industry now. If you're not actively doing things to make the industry more equal, then who will?

Charles Gutjahr

A short opinion

A healthy mistrust of data

I am so glad to see our government back down on robodebt this week. They will no longer automatically raise a debt on welfare recipients based on data matching, instead Centrelink staff should review the data and investigate before accusing people of owing money. Perhaps hundreds of thousands of Australians were falsely accused of taking money they weren't entitled to, causing immense stress and hardship for no good reason.

My question now is how do we prevent this happening again? Inevitably another scheme will come up as 'dole bludgers' are a perennial scapegoat in Australia. How do we prevent a future scheme from making so many mistakes and causing so much suffering?

I think the answer is that we need to foster a healthy mistrust of data. People seem to think that because a computer says something it must be true. They don't give enough creedence to the possibility of mistakes and misinterpretations. The reason robodebt got it so wrong was perhaps somewhat due to mistakes in data, but probably mainly due to a fundamental misinterpretation of what Australian Tax Office income data means.

Having data is a good thing — better that we make judgements based on data than on guesses and personal prejudices. We should be encouraging government and society to use more data to be more fair and more effective. We just have to be careful to not accept that data uncritically. All data of a reasonable size has mistakes in it. That's OK! Even with mistakes it may well be better than nothing. The problem is that people aren't conditioned to think of data being wrong so they put too much faith in it. I think we should reverse that: we should always assume data is wrong, not completely wrong but always partially wrong.

I reckon the designers of the robodebt scheme put too much faith in their data. If they had properly acknowledged the risks of mistaken and misinterpreted data then I don't think it would ever have been launched.

Charles Gutjahr

A short opinion

I want a news bubble

Yesterday the Sydney Morning Herald chose to run celebrity news on their front cover when they should have featured the devastating NSW bushfires. I don't mind that newspapers cover celebrities or sport or schmaltz but that's for other people... I want only news from a newspaper, not 'content'.

Editors made that choice, but increasingly algorithms are making choices about what we see. Yet I don't know of any algorithm that gives me just news and rejects the inconsequential stuff.

Algorithms have a filter bubble problem where people aren't exposed to other viewpoints so their ideologies become more extreme. What I want is an algorithm that gives me a full range of viewpoints but excludes the things that are a waste of my time. I feel like neither editors nor algorithms are giving me what I want: the news that matters.

Charles Gutjahr

A short opinion

Inquiry into age verification for online wagering and online pornography

I only just heard about the Parliamentary inquiry into age verification for online wagering and online pornography, so I missed the chance to make an official submission. Here's what I would have said:

Legislating to restrict teenagers from accessing online pornography will do more harm than good. The big problem that porn poses is not sex (as most Aussie teenagers are sexually active), the problem is that porn can teach teenagers unrealistic and problematic representations of sex.

If the Government enforces age verification for pornography then it is the responsible providers of pornography who will comply and block teenagers from access. These are surely the ones most likely to show positive, healthy representations of sex which teens could benefit from seeing. Teenagers won't stop being interested in sex, though, and when they go looking for porn if they can't access the healthy stuff they'll find the squalid, violent and misogynistic pornography instead. Providers of that darker stuff don't operate in Australia and don't care about our laws so it will be just as readily available as before. Age verification risks pushing teenagers away from healthy role models towards dangerous and problematic ones.

The press release for the enquiry is titled "keeping minors safe online". Keeping minors safe should mean keeping them away from harmful depictions of sex, not away from learning about healthy sex. Perhaps instead of trying to prevent teenagers from learning about sex the Government should be encouraging more healthy online pornography to displace the darker stuff. Hey, perhaps this is a way to make SBS relevant again?

Charles Gutjahr

Corner Hotel
Regurgitator and Shonen Knife. Fun, and too loud for this old man.

Charles Gutjahr

Project281 Cafe
This brunch is probably primarily designed to look good for Instagram, but as a bonus it also tastes great.

Charles Gutjahr

400 Gradi Brunswick
Doesn’t wrapping an AC cord around a tube essentially turn it into a transformer? I hope no-one touches this thing!

Charles Gutjahr

Brunswick East
These two magpies have turned up in the front yard and have decided to stay. They appear to not be scared of us… the cat is scared of them. We are on Hitchcock level orange alert.