The third season of Westworld—HBO’s futuristic-themed thriller—hit screens yesterday, starring a dubious app inspired by blockchain technology.
The app, dubbed RICO—an acronym standing for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) after the 1970 US act of the same name—is essentially a peer-to-peer economy, for criminals.
Much like an Upwork—only for murderers, kidnappers, thieves and other enterprising felons—the app allows users to scout for gigs from robbing an ATM to all-out murder. And, according to Westworld co-creator Jonathan Nolan, it’s based on blockchain tech.
“Rico is an obvious parody of our algorithmic gig economy drawn to the extreme,” Nolan said, speaking to Variety. “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.”
Within the interview, Westworld co-showrunner Lisa joy also revealed that Nolan is “a little obsessed with blockchain.”
The RICO app’s connection to the underbelly of society is not altogether surprising. Bitcoin itself rose to infamy after being used in darknet markets. In its infancy, it was largely used to buy drugs on the darknet. However, the percentage of Bitcoin transactions sent to the darknet is now tiny.
Speaking in a post-credits scene of last night's premiere, Nolan suggested that the app could be an “end-game” for blockchain in real life—a worrying idea.