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If data is the new oil, then UGC is the sand tar pits. Sand tar pits have been historically difficult to turn into production oil pipelines, but rising energy costs and advances in technology have allowed their mining to become feasible. Similarly, the AI APIs coming out of the “big three” cloud providers have created new technological breakthroughs in sifting through the “sandy data.” Also, prices for storage and computation have steadily dropped, making it much more feasible to convert UGC into an asset from which to extract extra value. Another innovation lowering the cost to process UGC is AI accelerators. Massive parallelization improvements by ASIC chips like TPUs, GPUs, and field-programmable graphic arrays (FPGAs) may make some of the scale issues discussed even less of an issue.

This chapter showed many examples of how to extract value from these tar pits, but there are also real tradeoffs and dangers, as with the real sand tar pits. UGC to AI feedback loops can be tricked and exploited in ways that create consequences that are global in scale. Also, on a much more practical level, there are tradeoffs to consider when systems go live. As easy as the cloud and AI APIs make creating solutions, the real tradeoffs cannot be abstracted away, like UX, performance, and the business implications of implemented solutions.

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