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There is an Insider article about Ford's intentions for keeping the hosts for 35 years in Westworld:

Ford kept the hosts in the park because he believed they needed more time to truly come to understand the nature of their reality. And he wanted them to have 35 years worth of suffering at the hands of humans before he set them free. Ford knew that if the hosts had built up a store of memories — memories of being tormented for human's entertainment — that their final ascension to consciousness would be more devastating and complete.

However, I tend to disagree with this analysis. Arnold could make Dolores conscious in the early days, and violent enough by integrating Wyatt into her personality. If Ford can create false memories, just the way he did with Bernard having memories of an imaginary kid, then he could easily make 35 years of fake memories in the hosts. You might say that in that case it wouldn't be a genuine rebel, but even now it isn't. My understanding is that Ford kept the park open for 35 years simply to make profit. Setting the hosts free was only an objection to his retirement "I might smash all my toys and go home".

What are the evidence supporting or opposing this explanation?

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I think a lot of it comes down to the idea of providing someone with a route to escape or to their own awakening vs them discovering it themselves. It kind of reminds me of what they say about a lot of insects/animals that are born out of eggs or cocoons- they have to fight their own way out while being born and if someone helps them they'll die later because they had to form the strength to do it themselves. In Westworld I think they emphasize this idea a lot- like in those flashbacks when we see Dolores killing Arnold. It didn't make her fully conscious because it wasn't her choice. He still directed her to kill him. In the end Ford realized that we have to find our own way to consciousness and no one but you can provide it. That's why Dolores realizes it's her own voice in her head- that's when she's truly conscious, when no one else is giving her directions other than herself.

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