“I believe that peace means that one person has the biggest stick. I build those sticks.” – Walter O’Brien
UPDATE: This episode ended up sparking a lot of controversy. Many skeptics asked pointed questions about Walter’s background, claims, and credentials (often pointing to pages like this or this). This is the first time I’ve run into such an issue with the podcast, so it took me some time to figure out how to respond.
I struggled with whether or not to take down this episode and blog post entirely. In the end, I decided it was more instructive to leave the below original up (with this new preface) and add an audio note to the beginning of the podcast (coming soon).
I’m hoping it will help us all improve, especially yours truly. Thank you for all of your feedback.
Walter O’Brien (AKA “Scorpion”) (@walterobrienscs) is the founder of Scorpion Computer Services and ConciergeUp.com, a for-hire global think tank that provides intelligence-on-demand as a concierge service. The tag line for the latter is, “for any funded need.”
- Need to defend against chemical warfare?
- Move an entire manufacturing operation over a weekend?
- Save a loved one from a deceitful spouse?
- Thread the needle on a thorny legal issue?
- Become a pop star in a foreign country?
When Walter and his team of 2,000+ distributed geniuses say “any funded need,” they mean it literally.
Born in Ireland, Walter was diagnosed as a child prodigy with an IQ of 197. He became an Irish national coding champion and competed in the Olympics in informatics.
Fast forward to today, he and Scorpion get paid to fix every imaginable problem for billionaires, startups, governments, Fortune 500 companies, and people like you and me. On the large side, it ranges from mitigating risk on $1.9 trillion of investments to inventing artificial intelligence engines to protect United States war fighters in Afghanistan.
Walter is also the executive producer of the hit CBS TV show Scorpion, inspired by his life, which has reached more than 26 million television viewers.
I was introduced to Walter well before the show, and we go deep in this conversation, with lots of amazing and also hilarious examples of problem solving.
- Listen to it on iTunes.
- Stream by clicking here.
- Download as an MP3 by right-clicking here and choosing “save as.”
Want to hear another podcast from a world-class computer scientist? — Listen to my conversation with Luis von Ahn, the founder and CEO of DuoLingo. In this episode, we discuss learning languages, building companies, and changing the world (stream below or right-click here to download):
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This podcast is also brought to you by Boll & Branch. There is a lot of nonsense in the bedding business. For instance, did you know thread-count is not a good measurement of quality? It’s a total myth. The “Made in Italy” label? It isn’t something you should necessarily pay extra for because it generally means it’s just finished in Italy and woven in places like China.
The general industry mark-up for bedding is 700 to 800 percent at most retailers. Boll & Branch creates incredibly high-quality bedding. They are the same sheets you’ll find at my home in San Francisco.
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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What is a problem you would like to have ConciergeUp solve for you? Please let me know in the comments.
Scroll below for links and show notes…
Selected Links from the Episode
- Learn more about ConciergeUp
- Learn more about the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System
- Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
- Bad Science by Ben Goldacre
- Learn more about HTC VIVE
- The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
- Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson and Jonathan Davis
- Glimpses of Heaven, Visions of Hell by Barrie Sherman and Phillip Judkins
- Learn more about Teslasuit or tactile feedback suits
- Learn more about ScenGen
- Watch the TV show based on Scorpion
- The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Green
- The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
- Into the Heart of the Mind by Frank Rose
- How Walter O’Brien began his relationship with NASA [8:15]
- How Scorpion came to be [13:20]
- The Emotional Quotient vs. Intellectual Quotient phenomenon [15:05]
- The origin story of the name Scorpion and current status of the company [16:40]
- The largest project Scorpion Computer Sciences has worked on [20:05]
- How Scorpion implements “any funded need” solutions [20:42]
- The “Gold Digger” story [23:07]
- The current state of head transplants and why it may be of interest [30:00]
- Why Walter O’Brien has never tried alcohol [38:28]
- How Walter O’Brien cultivated a higher EQ [43:25]
- Thoughts on developing the skill of rational thinking [45:30]
- Meditative practices [53:10]
- On virtual reality [57:15]
- What is ScenGen? [1:04:20]
- Are high IQ intellectuals more susceptible to emotional highs and lows? [1:12:47]
- Cognitive patterns in people with high IQ [1:14:54]
- How the TV show Scorpion came to be [1:16:45]
- When you think of the word successful who is the first person who comes to mind and why? [1:30:22]
- How Walter O’Brien gets out of a funk [1:32:09]
- Most gifted books [1:33:20]
- What purchase of $100 or less has most positively affected your life? [1:34:40]
- Advice to Walter O’Brien’s 30-year-old-self [1:37:45]
- On the challenge of sleeping [1:39:35]
- Particular morning routines [1:41:35]
- Thoughts on New Year’s resolutions, goal setting and completing the to-do list [1:42:30]
- Historical figures that Walter O’Brien identifies with the most [1:43:50]
- If you could put one billboard anywhere, with anything on it, where would it be and what would it say? [1:45:00]
- Final words and asks of the audience [1:48:10]
Posted on: February 16, 2016.
Please check out Tribe of Mentors, my newest book, which shares short, tactical life advice from 100+ world-class performers. Many of the world's most famous entrepreneurs, athletes, investors, poker players, and artists are part of the book. The tips and strategies in Tribe of Mentors have already changed my life, and I hope the same for you. Click here for a sample chapter and full details. Roughly 90% of the guests have never appeared on my podcast.
Who was interviewed? Here's a very partial list: tech icons (founders of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Craigslist, Pinterest, Spotify, Salesforce, Dropbox, and more), Jimmy Fallon, Arianna Huffington, Brandon Stanton (Humans of New York), Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ben Stiller, Maurice Ashley (first African-American Grandmaster of chess), Brené Brown (researcher and bestselling author), Rick Rubin (legendary music producer), Temple Grandin (animal behavior expert and autism activist), Franklin Leonard (The Black List), Dara Torres (12-time Olympic medalist in swimming), David Lynch (director), Kelly Slater (surfing legend), Bozoma Saint John (Beats/Apple/Uber), Lewis Cantley (famed cancer researcher), Maria Sharapova, Chris Anderson (curator of TED), Terry Crews, Greg Norman (golf icon), Vitalik Buterin (creator of Ethereum), and nearly 100 more. Check it all out by clicking here.