A man who reportedly accidentally dumped a hard drive containing 8,000 bitcoins wanted to use robotic dogs and artificial intelligence to help him mine junkyards to retrieve his lost wealth, according to reports.
James Howells, from the south Wales city of Newport, mistakenly threw away his iPhone-sized drive in 2013. The bitcoins stored in it are now worth about $175 million.
Now, Howells is fighting for permission from the Newport City Council to use a multimillion-dollar high-tech scheme to dig into the landfill and find the hard drives, according to people familiar with the matter.
Howell’s master plan reportedly includes spending $11 million to dig the landfill and sort 110,000 pounds of trash. Then, both humans and AI machines trained to recognize hard drives will sort the trash in a process he estimates will take three years.
Meanwhile, two Boston Dynamics robot dogs will also be sorting trash during the day and patrolling at night for trespassing treasure hunters, the report said.
If Howells succeeds in locating the hard drive, there’s still a good chance he won’t be able to recover the bitcoins because the hard drive is damaged. Still, he reportedly recruited a data extraction team that included a consultant who helped recover data from the black boxes after the Columbia space shuttle crash.
If Howells wins the city council’s backing, his bold plan will be funded by a pair of Swiss and German venture capitalists, Hanspeter Jaberg and Karl Wendeborn. If the bitcoins are successfully recovered, the duo will earn more than $50 million.
“It’s obviously looking for a needle in a haystack, and it’s a very, very high-risk investment,” Jaberg told Insider.
In addition to paying off his investors, Howells will reportedly keep about 30% of his bitcoins, give 30% to workers who help recover the bitcoins, and give every resident of Newport about 30% of his bitcoins. $60 in Bitcoin.
But the city council told Insider it disapproved of Howells’ plan, saying digging the landfill would pose a “significant ecological risk”.
However, Howells moved forward, telling Insider that he had met with local MPs and was weighing legal arguments.
“We don’t want to damage the environment in any way,” he said. “If anything, we want to put everything in better shape.”