8,000 Bitcoin gone up in smoke. This story is the story of James Howells, a former computer scientist in Newport, who changed his life in 2013. Trying to get rid of a hard drive he thought was a virgin, the Englishman had just booted estimated to send more than 180 million dollars today. After 9 years of research, he comes back with a specific plan of action to find the precious hard drive. A plan that could cost him thousands of euros. But his request has so far been met with rejection by the local authorities. A story worthy of a film!
XXL plan to find the hard drive!
For 9 years, James Howells has been actively involved find his war chest: 8,000 Bitcoin spent in 2013. Today, the 36-year-old former computer scientist returns with a plan that combines robot dogs, artificial intelligence and venture capital funds. An XXL plan that could be the subject of a feature film due to its unusual aspect.
The plan to find the infamous hard drive runs into the millions. 11 to be exact. Schematic, it will consist of search for more than 110,000 tonnes of waste. To optimize the search, Howells relies on a combination of human sorters, robot dogs and an artificial intelligence machine specifically trained to find anything resembling a hard drive. Depending on how much is kept, the excavations could last between 18 and 36 months.
To carry out his plan, Howells has surrounded himself with experts with very specific skills. The shock team will include an expert in artificial intelligence-assisted sorting, an expert in landfill excavation, a specialist in waste management as well as an expert in data extraction. The plan even includes security costs, to prevent others from finding the hard drive. Therefore Boston Dynamics dog robots, researchers during the day, would go into guard mode at night.
The team formed by Howells met for the first time last May at the Celtic Manor Resort, near Newport. When asked to film this meeting to make a documentary, former “Top Gear” host Richard Hammond had this to say:
It’s a story that goes from the unbelievable to the epic.
The city council as the main brake
But in this Hollywood situation, there must be pros and cons and a certain kind of uncertainty about the feasibility of the project. This role is the responsibility of the city council, which it has held for almost 10 years. Since Howells realized his mistake, the city council has consistently refused to allow him to excavate the landfill, arguing that such excavations would be prohibitively expensive, but above all that it could happen. harmful to the environment.
In a statement to the Insider, a city councilor recently said:
Mr. Howells cannot give us anything that would encourage the council to accept his project. His proposals pose a significant ecological risk, which we cannot accept and cannot consider under the terms of our permit.
For nearly 10 years, Howells has lamented the little help he receives from the city council. He recently said he did not get a face-to-face meeting with council members. In May 2021, he was able to get a meeting of about twenty minutes on Zoom to explain his problem. Too thin considering the stakes. To promote his cause, Howells is said to have met local MP Jessica Morden last month.
Subject to the city council’s acceptance of the request, the research will be funded by Hanspeter Jaberg and Karl Wendeborn, two Swiss and German venture capitalists who have pledged to provide $11 million.
The ecological question is at the heart of the debate
In the excavation plan, Howells plans to clean up the trash, recycle as much as possible, and bury the rest. If the environmental subject is very sensitive today, Howells specified that his plan could not qualify as ecocide:
We do not want to harm the environment in any way. On the contrary, we want to leave everything in better condition.
To try to convince the city council more easily, Howells is now relying heavily on an ecological aspect to his approach. After the excavations, the plan calls for a solar or wind farm to be built on the landfill site. However, there is no indication that the city council will change its mind.
What are the chances of recovering the hard drive?
First of all, they depend a lot on the choice made by the city council. If the council refuses again, Howells could take the local authority to court. On the grounds of “unlawful embargo”. If the former computer says he is reluctant to use this remedy, it may be his last chance to get back the lost Bitcoin.
Accepting a happy ending for Howells with the city council, the companies involved are showing some confidence that the ring road will be found. But the uncertainty lies in the extraction of the data. The proper functioning of the hard drive will depend on one component: the platter. This is a glass or metal disk that holds the data. According to Howells, if the plate is not cracked, there is an 80-90% chance that the data will be recoverable. Phil Bridges, a data recovery professional, confirmed that these numbers are accurate. On the other hand, if the plate is damaged, the probabilities of recovering the data are towards 0.
If the data was recovered, Howells said he would keep about 30% of the loot. That’s almost $55 million at the current Bitcoin price. A third is provided to the recovery team. There should be about a 30% return for investors. In his plan, Howells plans to help a number of local causes. And give £50, in BTC, to each of the 150,000 residents of Newport. When we tell you that this story almost deserves a movie!
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