As an avid reader who connected with the minds of many authors through their texts, Thoreau firmly believed that we do not need to be physically proximate in order to know and understand an individual. Nor does that individual necessarily need to possess a living and fleshly body. He wrote affectionately about long winter evenings spent with previous inhabitants of Walden Pond when a long-deceased settler who dug the pond and a dame herbalist ‘invisible to most persons’ both entertained him for many hours with their stories of times past. For Thoreau, physical contact ranked low in the rating of valuable interactions, and I would agree with that, although I do still enjoy quite a few of those moments. After all, as he says, ‘The value of a man is not in his skin, that we should touch him.
Below is a map of interactions in LambdaMOO. It is made up from data collected by Cobot, a software agent designed by Charles Isbell at Georgia Tech. Cobot's goal in life is to interact with other members of the LambdaMOO community and to become a real part of his social fabric. Toward this end, Cobot builds models of those around him, based on statistics of who performs what actions, and on whom they use them. For example, Cobot notices which users converse with each other most frequently. Cobot can answer queries about this information, but also uses this to try to learn socially appropriate actions. This map is a representation of the social relationships inside cobot's head. Each node in this graph is a person, and the kinds of interactions which take place dictate the colours on the graph. For a full explanation see http://www.cc.gatech.edu/fac/Charles.Isbell/projects/cobot/map.html
Thoreau believed that we do not need to be physically proximate in order to know and understand an individual. What kind of proximity is this, that it can be mapped in hard data yet nobody was ever physically present within the mapped space?
See also Zero-G's Vocaloid Virtual Vocalists featuring Leon, Miriam and Lola. They could be your own backing singers, 24/7, and no session fees! As the company says 'You can add humanity to any production in any style without needing a human'. Leon and Lola 'are the Adam and Eve of the new era of virtual singing'.