UK man named James Howells is currently looking for a hard drive containing the keys to millions of dollars worth of bitcoin, his latest plan is to find his buried treasure involves robot dogs digging up a landfill.
Today, mining bitcoin is a complex, energy-intensive process because the proof-of-work calculations get more difficult over time. But a decade ago, Howells was able to mine about 8,000 bitcoins on a modest home computer before the crypto boom. Even after the recent collapse in cryptocurrency prices, Howells’ lost fortune is worth about $166 million (AED609m). All he needs to claim the money is the passcode saved on the hard drive he mistakenly tossed in 2013.
Howells — a former IT worker and current crypto trader — has been working on schemes to find his fortune ever since he realized his mistake. The problem, the local landfill in Newport, Wales has since been sealed and covered with earth. He has devised a plan costing $11 million (AED40m) to excavate the landfill. He’s reportedly gotten funding from venture capitalists Hanspeter Jaberg and Karl Wendeborn, but he needs some robots to get the job done.
The plan calls for several Boston Dynamics Spot robots, which would march around the landfill in search of the hard drive. Trash excavated from the landfill would be sorted at a nearby pop-up facility with the help of human workers and AI systems. Even if Howells could find the hard drive in a mountain of garbage, there’s no guarantee it would still work. If the data is unsalvageable, his bitcoins are still lost. And let’s not forget this hard drive has been sitting in a dank pit for the last decade. Garbage water isn’t good for hard drives (or anything, for that matter).
The elements aren’t the only thing standing between Howells and his fortune. The local city council has always been sceptical of Howells and his schemes. They weren’t interested in his offer to share 25 per cent of the recovered crypto, noting that digging up the landfill could incur millions in costs to the local government, and there are real ecological concerns when opening a landfill near residential areas. Howells apparently hopes his new plan will get the council to change its mind, but that seems unlikely after all these years. Howells has not, however, ruled out filing a lawsuit to secure the right to root around in a big pile of garbage. There are probably easier ways to make $166 million (AED609m).
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