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Legions of organized robots can be a bad thing. Unless they're making cheese.

Clara Olshansky
January 19, 2018

Sure, there are some robots out there that we should be super cautious of: robots bringing us closer and closer to the singularity. There are also robots that do pretty heady stuff like predicting fine wine prices and gleaning the recipe that cooked a certain dish based on just a photograph. But not all robots are smarter than us or trying to destroy us: some are just helping to bring more cheese into our lives.

Enter Laura Gilmore, who has a dream job for cheese lovers and robot lovers alike: she's a robotocist at a cheese factory. In this piece for Scientific American, Gilmore discusses her job maintaining and overseeing the efficiency of the automated equipment at a Lactalis cheese factory.

The robots she makes aren't trying to learn or perform complicated cognitive tasks. Instead, they're just trying to do the work that goes into making cheese as efficiently as possible. Gilmore describes a few of the kinds of robots in the piece. One, a palletizing robot, will take sacks of whey powder from a conveyer belt, put it onto a pallet, and wrap fully stacked pallets (as determined by the machine's programming) in plastic for shipping. Another robot has sensors to "see" the cheese and make sure it's in position. In fact, there's even a robot that just seals sixteen strings of cheese into string cheese.

So basically, legions of organized robots can be a bad thing, signaling the end of humans' reign over the Earth, but they can also be one of the best things of all: an army that provides us with lots and lots of cheese. After all, Lactalis's robots make everything from brie cheese to mozzarella to blue cheese to sheep's milk feta.

To learn more about Gilmore's life and work, you can follow her on Instagram, @theladymachinist, and, for more surprising articles on subjects you hadn't thought about before, check out Scientific American's other Observations.