Spoilers ahead for the Season 3 premiere of Westworld. Dolores needs humans allies now that she’s out in the real world, and that’s where Aaron Paul’s Westworld character Caleb Nichols comes in. A military veteran suffering from PTSD and poorly adjusting to civilian life, Caleb is a tragic character who’s quietly falling through the cracks of society, which has become almost entirely automated and digital. "They said the way the army was run — algorithms — that’s the way everything was going to be some day," he says in the Season 3 premiere. "Better living through technology. And some things are better, but I don’t know."
Caleb struggles with depression and the death of his army friend Francis, so he attends mandated therapy with an overworked therapist. He also subscribes to an AI audio counseling service that replicates Francis’ voice and personality, but that misses all the nuance of who Francis really was – a fact Caleb is painfully aware of. AI Francis suggests Caleb turn his "implant" on — a reference to the embedded Incite tech everyone seems to be using — to feel better, but Caleb says feeling human is the only thing keeping him above water.
Meanwhile, Caleb works in construction, but his only coworker is a mute, unfeeling robot. When a computer algorithm decides that he’s "not the right fit" for a better job, Caleb turns to doing illegal work on the Rico app to pay for his mom’s expensive medical care. He’ll take any work, he says, as long as they’re not "personals" —aka assassinations.
Caleb’s a good guy, essentially, but he’s been ground down by an increasingly tech-reliant world. It’s a world where somebody like Incite’s Liam prospers, but an everyday guy like Caleb, who clearly needs human empathy rather than an AI therapist and a career-deciding algorithm, is barely surviving. Technology has decided that Caleb’s purpose in life is to shoulder an unbearable existence and just "follow the plan" regardless of his suffering, which functions as a real-world analogy to the lives of the Westworld hosts.
In this light, it makes sense that Caleb and Dolores are ultimately drawn to each other. (If in fact their meeting is by chance and not because Dolores orchestrated it, as she tends to do.) Caleb and Dolores are both struggling under the same system that favors the wealthy who use technology for their personal gain, regardless of how much it exploits others.
Though Caleb will likely be hesitant to help Dolores due to his general distrust of AI, she’ll surely find a way to win him over. Caleb is looking for human connection, and in an increasingly digital world, there’s nothing more genuine than a host who overcame her programming to establish her own personhood. Through Dolores, Caleb may come to realize that technology and humanity are not polar opposites, but just two sides of the same coin.
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