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I could see xenos being useful from a medical standpoint but in a time when technology includes not just FTL drives but also controllable androids, what could xenos do as a weapon that would be useful?

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    This group isn't intended for opinions or speculative answers, Even so, one obvious answer is that xenomorphs can reproduce rapidly in enemy territory at no cost to the attacker. Jan 31 at 9:34
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    I don't think WY want the alien as a weapon, so much as that studying could lead to more useful weapons in general. The armour, rapid growth, molecular acid, etc are all things that can be deployed into other weapons such as guns, biological entities and androids.
    – Valorum
    Jan 31 at 9:48
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    Plus wiping out a colony or planet with thousands or millions of androids would attract a lot of unwanted attention (not to mention expensive). Dropping a single alien egg onto a planet would be sufficient to wipe it out in most cases.
    – Valorum
    Jan 31 at 9:49
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    @releseabe - What makes you think that a world in which they need to transport oil from one place to another (and where people get paid for their labour) is post-scarcity?
    – Valorum
    Jan 31 at 11:45
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    @releseabe - The Nostromo is a flying oil refinery
    – Valorum
    Jan 31 at 12:38

2 Answers 2

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For the original movies, the company doesn't know precisely what the Aliens are all about. But they know enough to casually risk the lives of innocents, in the hopes that they will obtain some useful advantage.

Alien: Special Order 937 told Ash to "investigate a life form, possibly hostile and bring it back for observation." Maybe they haven't told Ash everything they know, but the sense is that they've underestimated the dangers. It would be ludicrous to send an uninformed freighter crew to pick up a xenomorph otherwise. And note that Ash is not trying to kill everybody, he just wants to bring the alien back, and the crew is regarded as expendable - even when W-Y doesn't know what a prize the alien really is.

Aliens: Years later, and as a result of learning about the events of the first film, the company knows a lot more about the xenomorphs, and they've positively decided that retrieving them would be worth "millions" to their bio-weapons division. This justifies (in their eyes) the sacrifice of random civilians and a military team. Once again, though, they've underestimated the dangers present - though if anything that makes the xenomorphs seem even more useful!

At this point, the company knows that a single xenomorph has absurd capabilities in hand-to-hand combat and survival. The infestation from a small number of eggs was bad enough that (the survivors of) an elite squad of Colonial Marines wanted to nuke the site from orbit as their best option. This suggests that even as-is, the aliens are a terror weapon that outmatch conventional military capabilities. And although some of the subsequent media in the franchise has military androids, what we see of Ash and Bishop does not seem to put them on the same danger level as the xenomorphs; Bishop has some knife skills but the alien can rip him apart.

But ultimately, Weyland-Yutani is the kind of company that is quite happy to throw away other people's lives for the sake of profit, or even a chance at profit. It doesn't need to be the case that they have carefully assessed how to integrate xenomorph-derived knowledge into their technology, or carried out an analysis of android vs. alien capabilities. They saw a chance and they went for it.

In Alien Resurrection we do see the kind of thing they were able to accomplish, aiming to create a super-soldier. And in other subsequent media, not just films, we see a lot of variations of aliens and androids, and get to learn more about them. This is how expanded media ends up. But Weyland-Yutani's motivations make sense on the level of the original story, where we don't have all of those details but do understand that W-Y are assholes.

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    Is there any actual confirmation in Aliens or subsequent works that WYs actions are anything but Burke thinking he can get a huge payout and manipulating the situation? Ie a middle manager getting ideas above his station? I mean, if it was WY as an official act to pursue the life form, surely they would have acted sooner than picking Ripley up 70 years later…
    – Moo
    Jan 31 at 19:29
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    I think Resurrection can be discounted - its far off in the future and the experiments are now heavily influenced by the military. But my take on Alien3 is that WY is still very much being opportunistic - the recovery ship is prioritised when the convicts inform WY of Ripleys condition, but they were still sending a recovery ship before that point anyway (there was no "shut her up" before then, and they left the convicts alone afterward...). WY does want to get hold of the alien, but I think it would be a gold mine for most corporations anyway.
    – Moo
    Jan 31 at 21:04
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    The xenomorphs really aren't that extraordinary a weapon. With better intelligence, the Colonial marines in Aliens could have easily - trivially - handled them. In classic action sci-fi horror movie fashion, they have to be given a situational advantage ("You can't use your real weapons near the fusion equipment!") to make them competitive. In the open field with artillery and air support, the xenomorphs would be as endangered as spotted owls.
    – tbrookside
    Jan 31 at 23:39
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    @tbrookside Every weapon has weak points. By your logic no weapon is extraordinary since there exists one or more situations in which every weapons is outmatched by other, more suitable weapons. Also, good luck hitting even a lone human-form xenomorph with artillery, let alone one of the canine variants 😁
    – Corey
    Feb 1 at 1:10
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    @tbrookside they are an excellent populace clearing tool - give them a few weeks, all the populace is gone. Give it another few years, nothing but eggs - send in a trained cleanup squad, then move your people in to occupy.
    – Moo
    Feb 1 at 7:25
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Xenomorphs can replicate themselves, quickly and without extra effort

Xenomorphs can replicate themselves very fast and without any supply or effort (unless you count the effort spent on eliminating their victims). Androids might be able to produce more androids using resources of the enemy (if the necessary high-tech parts are available), but the time and effort spent on replicating is time and effort lost for the main objective. Also, creating an android likely takes more time than a xenomorph needs to fully grow -- and by then the xenomorph has already killed several victims.

The advantage of androids is that they are able to be given other objectives than "kill and multiply" and that they can adapt their objectives to the circumstances, ask for new objectives, or simply give up an impossible mission. So if you want controlled destruction and goal-oriented problem solving, an android is probably the better choice. But if you want to wreak havoc, send a xenomorph.

There are other weapons of mass destruction, but at least in comparison to known and existing examples, xenomorph again have qualities that may make them the preferable choice. In particular, none of the existing nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons will actively hunt its prey, while xenomorphs do exactly that. Even protective gear will succumb, if not to the raw violence, then to the notorious acid.

Also, creating and deploying the currently known weapons of mass destruction can become costly and time-consuming, if a larger area is to be affected, whereas xenomorphs spread out and deploy themselves. Current biological weapons can also propagate, but they need a host for that. Propagation by wind or water dilutes microorganisms, so isolation works against them -- against xenomorphs, not so much.

Finally, cleaning up after widespread use of weapons of mass destruction is impossible, or at least not sensible. Removing xenomorphs after usage seems doable, as long as no new prey becomes available (e.g. using androids or remotely controlled drones). Moreover, if a xenomorph-specific pathogen can be found, cleaning up xenomorphs is a piece of cake compared to cleaning up nuclear, chemical, or microbial contamination.

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  • Yes, I think xenos would extremely effective at wiping out an enemy but the clear remaining issue is now the planet is infested with a very dangerous and possibly much worse enemy. And if all you want to do is kill everyone, why, we had weapons that would do that since the h-bomb 70 years ago. Or the neutron bomb. So again, I just don't find xenos as weapons very compelling. I think they could have come up with something more creative and plausible than this.
    – releseabe
    Feb 2 at 19:22
  • @releseabe: You asked about xenos vs. androids, not xenos vs. weapons of mass destruction. But even in that comparison, xenos have advantages: Xenos do not affect plant life or smaller animals, buildings may need to be renovated, but will remain mostly intact, and one xenomorph may be sufficient to ruin a whole civilisation. Achieving the same with H-bombs or better cobalt bombs would be unlikely to be cost-effective (to use Burke-speak). Cleaning up after xenomorphs may be costly, if no specific pathogen can be found, but cleaning up widespread radioactive contamination is impossible.
    – straycat
    Feb 2 at 20:15

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