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If the AI became self sustained and self aware (given that researchers are working on making it possible), would they be able to invent or discover new elements which might be included in the current periodic table?

Can AI invent/discover new elements?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by StephenG, JBH, Vincent, user535733, Erin Thursby Oct 14 '18 at 18:02

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding.SE! We're glad you could join us! When you have a moment, please click here to learn more about our culture and take our tour. Please understand that this is (IMO) an unanswerable question. We can't build an AI, so we don't actually know what it can or cannot do. We do know that a computer is only as smart as its programmers. We therefore assume that an AI could do as you suggest. But the simple truth is, we don't know. $\endgroup$ – JBH Oct 14 '18 at 15:21
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    $\begingroup$ The tile does not seem to match the question. How is a dominating AI relevant? $\endgroup$ – user535733 Oct 14 '18 at 16:00
  • $\begingroup$ This question has been closed as primarily opinion-based. This is nonsense. the answers reflect exactly the kind of knowledge & expertise to answer it. The physics of elements is well-understood. How can that be opinion-based in the slightest degree? $\endgroup$ – a4android Oct 15 '18 at 1:33
  • $\begingroup$ @user535733 The AI might be or not be dominating, but if it is dominating, it would have full control over what it can do, if its not and controlled by humans, then, it could be possible that their governers would not permit to let them do these type of experiments on the moral/ethical grounds (discovering a new element could destroy the world, or make it inhabitable for humans.) $\endgroup$ – KumarAnkit Oct 15 '18 at 7:01
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Not ones that fit on the current Periodic Table, except possibly for new short-lived isotopes at the 100+ end of the table.

However there has been some interesting work on programmable matter recently that suggests that with tools that are sophisticated enough, i.e. molecular 3D printing, it is possible to create "elements" that can't actually exist, those A.I. could possibly discover.

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  • $\begingroup$ as you say not the ones that fit, but we know that there are exceptions in the periodic table, and that some elements show characteristick properties that differs from the rest of the group/period. So, could this be possible for AI to find the actual cause of this and create a better yet table which fits all the existing elements (and their own invented ones) flawlessly and without deflections? $\endgroup$ – KumarAnkit Oct 14 '18 at 11:27
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    $\begingroup$ @KumarAnkit Probably not. Though the periodic table was originally organized by physical and chemical properties, it's now understood in terms of protons and electrons. You might find new isotopes, but not elements. (If you find some atom with 6 protons, be its properties however weird, it's gonna be called "carbon".) $\endgroup$ – Cadence Oct 14 '18 at 11:42
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    $\begingroup$ @KumarAnkit I'm talking about creating "atoms" that don't have any real protons, or other subatomic particles for that matter, but are collections of pinned electrons that don't have to obey the normal rules of atomic structure. $\endgroup$ – Ash Oct 14 '18 at 11:56
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The periodic table is full up to element 118 (Oganesson).

(This table is old. Elements 113 to 118 have been discovered and officially named. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_chemical_element_discoveries)

Thus, your AI will have to add to the end of the Table, possibly finding super-heavy elements in the proposed Island of Stability around element number 120.

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ I thought the super heavies were supposed to be much larger than that? $\endgroup$ – Ash Oct 14 '18 at 11:30
  • $\begingroup$ @Ash according to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Island_of_stability#Magic_numbers the proton count, and thus the element number, is around 120. The mass, though, is up around 300. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Oct 14 '18 at 11:41
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah when I read "super heavy element" I was thinking of species with atomic numbers in the thousands. $\endgroup$ – Ash Oct 14 '18 at 11:59
  • $\begingroup$ The end of the periodic table may also exist around element 126 or so. $\endgroup$ – Draco18s Oct 15 '18 at 2:05
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The answer depends on your world. Does your culture shackle this creation for fear of what it could do? Or does it just hand the keys to the LHC over and say "Please don't blow up the universe!".

Practically speaking, the one self sustained and self-aware class of beings has discovered 98 natural elements and then invented 20 more by smashing things together at really high speeds (numbers vary slightly, depending on what you consider to be "natural", but they add up to 118). Those 20 were discovered in the last 100 years. The probability of that being all the elements we discover is basically zip, which makes the probability that such an AI might discover a new one to be 100%.

That is, of course, unless we die in a nuclear war. You did watch the required primers on dangerous AI at the 101 and 202 level that got produced over the last few decades, right? A good solid nuclear war could prevent AIs from discovering much of anything.

The other fun issue is that there's not many elements that are interesting to discover in the short term. Most of them are terribly fleeting things. Oganesson, element 118, has a half life on the order of 1ms, So we're not about to use it as a building material any time soon. However, there is a theory that there might be an island of stability where there's a few long-lasting atoms which might still be discovered.

So that's the physics. The AI side of things is simply bounded by what you feel your AI should be capable of doing. The current prvailing opinions on AI from educated AI experts range from "It will never be able to do more than simple pattern matching" to "It will become a hyper-intelligent being of depths which humans cannot comprehend." So I think anything you choose will fit somewhere in that wide bound.

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