Richard G. Epstein








First Perceptual Prosthesis

to Win Such Approval


Special to the Sentinel-Observer


Ben Botsworth

Medical Correspondent

The American Medical Association (AMA) recommended the DONT perceptual prosthesis as "an effective treatment for obesity". DONT is the first perceptual prosthesis to win such approval. The AMA statement said that "DONT now joins the list of other AMA recommended appetite suppressants, including drugs that have been in use for many years."

DONT is technically a perceptual prosthesis, but like Microsoft's Helmet, it relies heavily on virtual reality. In effect, it superimposes a virtual reality upon the visual field of its wearer, rendering fattening foods less appealing in their visual appearance.

It is not clear what the practical impact of the AMA endorsement will be. The rapidly exploding use of perceptual prostheses and virtual reality technologies of every kind to treat psychological and spiritual ailments has seen the traditional medical establishment remaining mostly on the sidelines. Pressure from the drug industry might have forced the AMA to assume a more active role in evaluating these new computer-based therapies. According to some observers, by approving only some of these therapies, the drug industry is hoping that the public will view the non-approved therapies with suspicion.

Jack Hiller, President of the Virtual Reality Therapy Developers Association (VRTDA), dismissed the AMA endorsement as a desperate attempt to interfere with his industry. "Perceptual prostheses and virtual reality are being used to cure many ailments that used to be cured using drugs, drugs with dangerous and harmful side effects. DONT is effective, as has been self-evident since it was first introduced to the public last year. We are not impressed that the AMA is now acknowledging its effectiveness. We will oppose any attempt by the AMA or the FDA to regulate our industry. Perceptual prostheses and virtual reality are helping millions of Americans to overcome a host of psychological and spiritual problems, and we are not going to allow the AMA to interfere with the progress that we have made. The public needs to consider the incestuous relationship that exists between physicians and the drug industry."

Dr. Rachel Indigo, President of the AMA, said that her organization was not trying to regulate the computer-based therapy industry. "The public needs to know whether we medical professionals, those of us who have actually been through medical school, believe that these new therapies are safe and effective. Anyone who knows how to author a virtual reality entertainment now has the ability to create and market purported cures for all sorts of ailments that have traditionally been treated by those of us who are actually have been through medical school, and if that doesn't matter, then why have medical schools at all?"

This reporter wrote a special feature on DONT last year, when the product was first introduced. Here is an excerpt from that earlier article that describes the DONT prosthesis and the concept behind it.




January 12, 2027

Obesity is no laughing matter for millions of Americans. According to statistics from the Department of Health in Silicon Valley, 42% of all Americans are overweight to the point that it has a negative impact upon their health. Obesity has definitely increased since the emergence of the Global Landscape, which keeps tens of millions of Americans glued to their computer workstations day and night. Americans are eating more and exercising less.

Still, those excess pounds are seen as unattractive, and millions of Americans are fighting the battle of the bulge both for the sake of their health and for the sake of their appearance.

Now TheraComp Industries of Silicon Valley has come up with a treatment for obesity - DONT. DONT is a perceptual prosthesis that helps a person to overcome their craving and desire for unhealthful foods, while maintaining a normal desire for healthful foods, like carrots and celery sticks.

DONT is one of the many spin-off products that have emerged since Microsoft introduced the Helmet, its perceptual-cognitive prosthetic device, nearly four years ago. DONT is technically a perceptual prosthetic device, but like the Helmet, it distorts perceptions of reality using virtual reality technology. While the Helmet filters out unpleasant messages, DONT distorts the user's perception of food, making foods like cake and ice cream appear undesirable, while allowing foods like carrots and celery sticks to retain their natural appeal.

Jerry Gordon is the brains behind DONT. Jerry, who once weighed over three hundred pounds himself, developed DONT as an act of compassion. "I know what it is like to be stigmatized. I cured myself of obesity by means of hypnosis. When Microsoft came out with the Helmet I immediately saw the potential of the new perceptual prosthesis technology for helping people who have had a problem with food."

DONT does not play around. When the obese person dons the DONT prosthetic device, it distorts the user's perception of food making it nearly impossible for the user to eat foods that are high in fat, sugar and calories.

According to Mr. Gordon, "DONT can recognize a large variety of foods as being unhealthful. It then superimposes upon the visual image of the food disgusting images of maggots, worms, or whatever it takes to convince the user that he or she would be better off without that piece of cake or whatever it is."

I agreed that if I saw a piece of cake crawling with maggots, I might pass, but Mr. Gordon insisted that I try the DONT prosthesis out for myself.

"Seeing is believing," Mr. Gordon said cheerfully.

He took me to the TheraComp Industries kitchen and laboratory. In the center of the laboratory was a table that was set up with all sorts of delicious looking goodies.

Almost without thinking I reached for a scrumptious brownie, but Mr. Gordon shouted, "DONT!"

He showed me the DONT prosthetic device. "Here, let me help you put this on." In a few minutes the DONT device was in place. I now looked out at the world through special goggles that allowed me to see things normally. However, when I turned my head towards the food spread, I received quite a shock.

All of the desirable foods (cakes, desserts, French fries and so on) were shown crawling with the most horrific visions of worms, maggots, even little creatures that looked like demons. I looked at the brownies that had tempted me just a moment earlier and I saw the image of a 400 pound man emerging from the brownies like a phantom from hell.

"This is horrible!" I screamed.

"And so is obesity," Mr. Gordon replied firmly. "So is a heart attack. So is a stroke. So is diabetes. All of these things are horrible. Which is better, seeing the brownie in its true nature, as a 400 pound demon from hell or continuing with your old habits, eating yourself to death."

I pointed out that I did not have a weight problem and that eating a brownie would not do me any harm. Indeed, a bit of chocolate was just what I needed to take the edge off of a rough day.

"That's what they all say!" was Mr. Gordon's biting response.

I was all too eager to remove the DONT prosthesis when Mr. Gordon himself removed the prosthesis from my head. He invited me to have a seat near the food table. "I want you to meet someone," he said.

Betty Jefferson entered the room, almost as if on cue. She was extremely thin, and her face had a tired look to it. She was obviously proud of her slim figure. She sat down on a laboratory stool next to mine.

Mr. Gordon explained that Betty had once been a mammoth woman of 350 pounds. "Life was hell for Betty," he explained. "She had no social life, she couldn't do the things that a normal, active person can do. Then, we fitted her with the DONT prosthesis. She was one of our first experimental subjects. And, you can see the result. This woman is cured. She will never have a problem with her weight ever again."

Looking at the thin form before me I realized that Betty was a very nervous person.

"She's not wearing the DONT device," I observed.

"She doesn't need to. She's cured. Once a person is cured, they don't need to wear it any longer," Mr. Gordon replied. "The DONT rewires the brain, so that when fattening food is offered, the former DONT wearer will see that food in its true perspective, as disgusting and life-threatening."

I turned towards Betty. "What do you eat?"

"I eat good things," she said, almost like a robot.

Out of compassion and for no other reason, I reached behind me for the plate of brownies and offered them to Betty.

She leapt from her seat, screaming in terror, and ran from the room.

"You shouldn't have done that," Mr. Gordon said. "She's cured. She doesn't like brownies any longer."

"Are you sure that this therapy is better than using a traditional appetite suppressant," I asked.

"Drugs have side effects," Mr. Gordon replied earnestly. "DONT is just as effective as these drugs, but DONT has the advantage that there are absolutely no side effects."

I looked out the laboratory window just in time to see Betty Jefferson running in terror across the parking lot.




1997, 1999 Richard Gary Epstein

This material may be copied freely for educational purposes.  All articles that are extracted from this Web resource should appear with the author's copyright and this copyright notice.  


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