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Chow, Tommy WS, and John Sum. "Guest editorial: special issue on the emerging applications of neural networks." Neural Computing & Applications 20.7 (2011): 923-924. says:

The take off of neural computing research was probably due to the announcement that Japan had resumed the research of neural networks. The US feared that they would be overtaken by the Japanese. This resulted in Ira Skurnick, a program funding manager in the US defense Science Office, decided to fund neural computing research again.

How true is it that the take off of neural computing research in the 80's was due to Japan?

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    $\begingroup$ I did a bit of research on ANN history last semester, and the most significant thing I could find about japanese influence in AI was the american response to The Fifth Generation Computer (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifth_generation_computer). This was inside the Symbolic AI arena, not related to ANNs. Shortly after the failure of the Computer, they made an direct impact with fuzzy logic applications. $\endgroup$ Jan 23 '15 at 18:29
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It's not just "neural computing research," but a number of other scientific fields such as "high definition" video that were spurred by the threat of competition from Japan, real or imagined, in the 1980s and 1990s.

In the 1950s, it was the threat of "Sputnik," and Russia's (temporary) lead in the space program that spurred a renewed American interest is science, particularly space and atomic science (and helped introduce "new math" to elementary schools).

Quite a few scientific discoveries/revolutions in history have been spurred by the threat of foreign competition.

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