How Close is 'Westworld's' Rico App Technology to Being A Real Thing?

Westworld kickstarted its third season into action with a whole new futuristic world to explore. One piece of tech that caught viewers' eyes? The Rico app, a blockchain based application that allows criminals to pick up odd jobs of the illegal persuasion. If it seems too close to reality, then you're on to something.

When the premiere aired on March 15, audiences were presented with the morally conflicted Caleb Nichols (Aaron Paul). After bring rejected for a "straight" job, Caleb reached for his smartphone and opened the Rico app. During the course of the episode, Caleb picked out certain criminal activities from the app, such as robbing an ATM and delivering an illicit package, though he drew the line at any crime he deemed to be personal.

In a recent interview with Variety, showrunners Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan explained that the Rico app was inspired by blockchain technology that already exists today.

Blockchain is best described as "a decentralized form of record-keeping," according to Bustle. Blockchain makes it so that the movement of digital cash is supposed to be secure and private. In reality, it's the tech behind the privacy offered by Bitcoin, and in fantasy, on Westworld, users of the Rico app, such as Caleb, do not have to worry about the police investigating them whenever they start picking out the illegal activities.

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Joy teased, "Jonah's been a little obsessed with blockchain."

"Rico is an obvious parody of our algorithmic gig economy drawn to the extreme," added Nolan. "It's facilitated in part by the idea of the blockchain. I don't think people understand how seismic that shift is going to be."

Westworld
Photograph by John P. Johnson/HBO HBO/John P. Johnson

On Sunday's interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Aaron Paul argued that the futuristic Rico app is already here. Using dark web as an example, the dark net is encrypted data on the World Wide Web that cannot be reachable through search engines. The dark net has become commonplace for the trading of illegal services, according to Investopedia.

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Paul mentioned, "I think we're already there! There's a thing called 'the dark web,' and I don't even know how you access that."

Is the Rico app forseeable for future criminals? Over on Medium, sarah c0nn0r has already written a post proving how Westworld has everything wrong about blockchain. Though Bitcoin may conduct the financial distribution, the Rico app is much closer in design to the Ultranet, which provides a "fully-decentralized cryptocurrency marketplace."

How Close is 'Westworld's' Rico App Technology to Being A Real Thing? | Culture