I've been thinking lately about the possibility of uplifting certain animals to human-level intelligence. I'm fairly convinced that it's possible once we become comfortable and adept at genetic engineering: http://www.yalescien...ifting-animals/ That said, it'll of course be very difficult.
There are also the more interesting questions of "should we?" and "will we be allowed to?": http://www.forbes.co...e/#10c204ba4491 Those are of course much harder to answer, society is much less predictable than technology.
I'm also personally unsure what exactly would be the point. Is there even a point other than scientific curiosity? Some people say that there's some kind of moral imperative to do so, but I'm flatly unconvinced. Who suffers if we don't do it? Why bother? Even if it did somehow help, wouldn't it be more moral to invest in members of our own species? To me, "must we?" isn't even a question, the answer is obviously no.
Of course, that won't bother the people who are in it for scientific curiosity. So we're probably going to see it happen on a small scale once it becomes possible, even if there is relatively little point overall. And if we do go ahead and do it, when, who, and why?
I'm of the mind that the great apes will be the first. Probably we'll do bonobos first. I hope so. They're basically chimps, but nicer and less...evil. Someone will do chimps too. That will be horrible. Imagine those evil suckers with human intelligence. You get things like the Bonobo Genocide of 2305-09. Anyway, orangutans and gorillas are probably next. Other mammals will be harder, but dolphins, elephants, and dogs--being pretty intelligent already and man's best friend--are likely choices. Maybe a couple of birds, presumably parrot and crow species, could make it. Unlike the Orions Arm people, I'm extremely skeptical that any lower animals could be uplifted. Octopuses might not be impossible, but they'll be a very, very long shot. The changes that would be necessary for lower animals are so vast that you might as well be making a new creature from scratch though. Non-animal life forms? Forget it. They don't even have brains, Orions Arm people!