First: I am accepting the position (which I feel is correct) that the only difference between animals and humans is a complexity of the brain. So that sentience, self-awareness, consciousness, and all that other cool stuff is a product of our complex brains, and not due to a soul. So lets avoid that tangent.
I imagine that in the (near) future, as our knowledge of genetics and biology continue we will better understand the features that allows our brains to develop a mind that is capable of consciousness, etc. If it were possible to alter a nonhuman creature so that it could possess these traits, would it be right to do so? If it were possible to “uplift”* a species into a fully conscious awareness like ours – say to something like dogs – would it be right to do so?
I can imagine arguments both ways:
1)We shouldn’t play with the genetic coding of a dog (at least more than we have already by selective breeding). Let them be a dog.
2)If we can uplift a species, we should, as we allow them the freedom to be something more, to better appreciate their existence, etc. We “free” their minds from instinct, at least partially.
Admittedly, the second option is incredibly human-centric. It assumes that the self-awareness we possess is better than the alternative, and that instilling this in another species would be helping them in some way. Would it be?
I know PETA already throws a shit fit about the “enslavement” of animals, but if we made them more or less persons I’d be on board for that argument. What if some dogs were uplifted, and others weren’t? I can imagine a really strange world were both were around, with sentient dogs calling for the upliftment of their brothers. What say you?
*I have not read David Brin’s series, but yes, I probably should.
On the other side, I read a book about a year ago in which this was done, and it ended mankind. I can’t remember the name of the book, but in it, cities became fortresses. Some animals worked with humans, but the vast majority were against. There was a moon base where the rich were living, but most people were stuck on the ground, working to supply the moonbase. It was just a matter of time before the animals would overrun the humans.
I wish I could remember the name of the book. The setting was somewhere in Texas, around the golden triangle if that rings any bells with anyone.
ETA: Actually, I may be mixing parts of this story up with another book, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”
In the book I am trying to remember, it ends with the main character living in a luxury apartment with two wives.
EETA: I wrote all this without answering the OP. I don’t think we should, based on what I read in this book. Many animals are definitely stronger and faster than we are, and I don’t know if our technology alone could protect us from their physical advantage, and whatever technological ones they develop from being smart.
I’d say that we should not. A dog as smart as a human would still come off second-best in a lot of ways, and would now be smart enough to recognise and resent that fact. Just lacking opposable digits would be a significant setback.
Not unless we enhance them in other ways so they can be coequal with us, and not short lived handless dependents. Give them human lifespans or better, and either hands or technology that makes hands irrelevant (waldos controlled via brain implants, say) and then I’d support it. I feel bringing new and different intelligences into the world is a good thing in principle; and dogs being the partners of humanity in many ways deserve special consideration.
Being fairly smart and self aware and not being able to do a damn thing with it sounds terrible to me. To me thats in the same moral ball park as talking an average human, making them somewhat brain damaged and making it so they really can’t use their hands and feet for anything useful.
Crap like that sorta happens naturally on occasion to humans anyway, but I don’t think anybody thinks its a good thing. Just cause you approach that condition from the dumb end rather than the smart end doesnt make the end condition any more desirable IMO.
In all seriousness, I think making dogs as smart as humans would be needlessly cruel. Imagine having the intelligence and self-awareness of a human and be unable to talk, possess extremely limited dexterity, have ridiculously short lifespans and inability to see colors. This is not even taking into account that their craniums would have to be cracked open to accommodate the necessary increase in physical brain size.
ETA: I see that Billfish678 kind of beat me to the punch.
Animals have lots of abilities that humans* don’t. Dogs have far better hearing than we do, and better noses. They have faster twitch muscle reflexes, more endurance and more speed. They have a complex communication system based in no small part on body language - something humans aren’t as adept at.
Further more, many dogs and other species are already self-aware. They have their own likes & dislikes and their own plans and goals.
Dog intelligence is different than human intelligence but I think it would be a grave disservice to try and remake them in our image. Their intelligence has evolved to adapt dogs to their environment - just as ours has with humans. They’re not lesser species, just different.
Could we magically make one as smart as a college grad? Maybe. But why would a dog need to go to college? How are we doing the dog any favors by making it smart enough to discuss Spinoza? We’d be killing the essential part that makes them dogs - their selfless affection and commitment to their pack. Would dogs thank us for that, do you think?
Dogs are already better than humans are - at being dogs. Let them be who they are.
*Humans are animals. We have different strengths and weaknesses. But it’s a mistake to think of humans as something other than a particular species.