Man who threw out $175M in bitcoin wants robot dogs to help dig it up

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A man who accidentally threw away a hard drive with 8,000 bitcoins on it wants to use robot dogs and artificial intelligence to help him dig through a dump to recover his lost fortune, according to a report. 

James Howells, from the southern Wales city of Newport, mistakenly threw away the iPhone-sized drive in 2013. The bitcoin stored on it is now worth roughly $175 million. 

Now, Howells is fighting to secure permission from Newport’s city council to dig up the landfill and find the hard drive using a high-tech, multimillion-dollar plan, Insider reported

Howell’s master plan reportedly involves spending $11 million to excavate the landfill and sort through 110,000 pounds of trash. Both humans and AI-powered machines trained to recognize the hard drive would then sort through the garbage in a process he expects to take three years. 

A duo of Boston Dynamics’ robot dogs, meanwhile, would also sort through the garbage during the day and patrol for trespassing treasure hunters at night, according to the report. 

James Howells wants to spend $11 million to recover his lost bitcoin.

If Howells successfully finds the hard drive, there’s still a fair chance that he will be impossible to recover the bitcoins due to damage to the drive. Nonetheless, he has recruited a data extraction team that includes an advisor who helped recover data from the black box of the Columbia space shuttle after it crashed, according to the report.

If Howells wins over the city council, his audacious plan would be bankrolled by a pair of Swiss and German venture capitalists, Hanspeter Jaberg and Karl Wendeborn. The duo stands to make more than $50 million if the bitcoins are successfully recovered. 

“It’s obviously a needle in the haystack, and it’s a very, very high-risk investment,” Jaberg told Insider. 

In addition to paying off his investors, Howells would reportedly keep about 30% of the Bitcoin, give 30% to workers who helped recover it and give about $60 in bitcoin to each resident of Newport. 

The hard drive is buried somewhere in 110,000 pounds of trash.

But the city council told Insider that it disapproves of Howells’ plan, saying that digging up the landfill poses “significant ecological risk.” 

Yet Howells is still pushing forward, telling Insider that he met with his local member of Parliament and is weighing legal arguments. 

“We do not want to damage the environment in any way,” he said. “If anything, we want to leave everything in a better condition.”