The book is an excellent and quite accessible overview of artificial intelligence, or AI (what it is, what approaches there are to AI, what AI currently can and can not do), including a historical overview of the origins and early developments of AI.
In addition, and importantly, the book has a good deal of forward-looking discussion about how AI conceivably could develop in the (near) future, and what kinds of questions this could bring about, especially with respect to ethics and legislation (e.g. responsibility questions in driverless cars).
Was it good?
I thoroughly enjoyed the book. The informational contents are - at least for me - in a good balance in terms of basics and "frontiers", and especially the case illustrations (e.g. IBM's Jeopardy-winning AI the Deep Mind) nicely make the discussion concrete.
However, what I really appreciated was that the author successfully resisted the temptation to launch into science fiction-like speculations towards the end of the book (through the notion of conscious AI, the singularity etc. were covered). Instead, all the future-looking and ethics-related discussion is firmly rooted in what current and realistically foreseeable technology could enable.
The main take-away for me?
After reading the book, I probably understand and appreciate more the "mundane" applications of AI (e.g. movie recommending systems, autonomous driving software), and how anticipated developments in the near future may influence our lives and force us to rethink to a degree the premises in our legal systems (e.g. what about if a credit screening system is found to discriminate against a group of people, but because the system is implemented with a neural network, nobody can discern how those credit screening decisions are made?).
Who should read the book?
If one is at all interested in information technology and "big data" or the topic of artificial intelligence in particular, but is not entirely sure what the fuss is about, this book is well worth reading.
The book on Amazon.com: Thinking Machines