A new series about the life of Irish genius Walter O’Brien,now living in the US, is due to air on the CBS network later this year, and is set to become a hit show worldwide.
O’Brien, who has the fourth-highest IQ ever measured, hacked into NASA computers at the age of 13 and was instrumental in tracking down the Boston bombers. He came to the US on the same type of “extraordinary ability” visa that was given to Albert Einstein. Now 39, he heads Scorpion Computer Services, which specializes in international security.
The television series, titled Scorpion from O’Brien’s hacking name when he was in Ireland, was screened at San Diego’s Comic Con this year, where it was a huge success.
The pilot begins with the line: “My name is Walter O’Brien, and I am a genius. Einstein had an IQ of 165. Mine is 197.”
O’Brien, grew up near Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, and later moved to Callan, Co Kilkenny, the Irish Times reports. When he was 13, he represented Ireland in high-speed problem-solving at the 1993 International Olympiad in Informatics.
He also hacked into NASA’s computer system at 13. A trailer for Scorpion shows a dramatization of what happened when US authorities encountered the preteen genius after learning he’d hacked into the computer system.
O’Brien told webmasteradio.fm about that day: “I was coming home from school and encountered a house surrounded by black cars. Mom was on the couch, crying; Dad was not too happy. A lot of men in suits were wanting to yell at me for what I had done but were a little surprised when out of my school bag I pulled an extradition waiver – which calmed the conversation down. If they signed this [the extradition waiver] then I would show them where the holes are in their network. We ended up doing a deal – which happens in most hacking incidents you never hear about.”
O’Brien says he became interested in computers at the age of nine. “I learned everything there was to know about it,” he says. In the late 1990s, after graduating with a degree in computer science and artificial intelligence from Sussex University, in England, O’Brien moved to the US, where he set up Scorpion Computer Services, which began developing artificial-intelligence software.”
Says Dermot Horan, head of acquisitions at RTE: “He is a fascinating man. He has a turnover per annum of over $1 billion. He’s quite a character. He employs over 2,000 geniuses all around the world, solving difficult problems for the likes of the US military and high-net-worth individuals.”
At the Comic-Con convention last month, Scorpion show creator Nick Santora introduced O’Brien as a man who “has saved the world several times over, things he can’t even tell us about.”
O’Brien revealed to the Comic Con audience how isolating it was growing up as a genius and that he hopes the show will help other geniuses deal with their gifts better.
“I’m left-brain dominant, so anxiety and nervousness don’t affect me; most emotions don’t. If I had feelings I would have anxiety right now,” he said. “I think the show will raise a better awareness and understanding about why these kids are the way they are. They’ll probably only find about two people in life that they can truly empathize with. It’s a lonely road.”
He also said he thinks the show will make computer studies more popular.
“Other shows – like CSI, for example – urged a lot of kids to change their majors on what they study. So, five or eight years from now, people might start to study computer science because we made it look cool.”
One of the executive producers of the show told the audience: Walter personally caught the Boston bombers by writing an algorithm that tracked motion on all the cameras within a two-mile radius of the blast. That kind of thing makes for a really compelling episode of television. He also stopped nuclear meltdowns from happening.”
According to the makers of the series, which was written by the same team behind Prison Break, the show “follows an eccentric genius and his international network of super-geniuses as they form the last line of defense against the complex threats of the modern age.”
British actor Elyes Gabel, who has appeared in Game of Thrones, will play O’Brien in the series.