James Howells's life changed when he tossed out a hard drive that may be the most valuable in the world. One of them was he planned to get rid of, and another had a digital wallet with some 7,500 Bitcoins on it. Even as Bitcoin has dropped dramatically from its peak value of nearly $67,000, the wallet still holds about $185 million in digital tokens.
After accidentally throwing the wrong drive in the trash, a British computer engineer asked Newport's city council to allow him to dig for it in a landfill. His requests were repeatedly denied, even when he offered to pay the local government a quarter of the cryptocurrency holdings in his wallet. It turns out his "treasure hunt" is considered hazardous for the environment in all of the forms presented over the previous nine years.
With that said, Howells isn't giving up right now. A new approach supported by a hedge fund would persuade local authorities to authorize him to locate the valuable hard drive. However, the engineer believes using artificial intelligence and automation can assist sorting more swiftly through all the waste.
Howells proposes a two-stage approach to this new project: the first would involve sorting through all 100,000 tons for three years using a combination of human sorters and Boston Dynamics robotic "Spot" dogs, as well as a special conveyor belt with automated sorting systems, all of which would cost no less than $11 million and take nine to twelve months to complete.
Both plans would involve a team of experts in various fields such as landfill excavation, waste management, and data extraction. Howells even sought the advice of an advisor who worked for OnTrack, a company that recovered 99 percent of the data from the Columbia space shuttle's black box.
Howells aspires to clean up as much of the waste as possible, while the rest would be recycled. His team is even contemplating the possibility of constructing a solar or wind power facility on top of the landfill site, although whether or not this will convince authorities to approve the project remains to be seen.
If the initiative is successful, Howells is prepared to provide additional incentives, such as donating a portion of the funds to every one of Newport's 150,000 residents. For the time being, he can only wait for an official response and hope it will be positive.
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