For a long time I’ve enjoyed reading books by David Brin. Not only does he have some good sci-fi ideas and a good writing style, but he’s also a cool guy when you meet him at a signing. One of the core concepts in a number of his books is the idea of uplift, whereby advanced races use a combination of breeding programs and genetic manipulation to raise animals to a similar level to humans in terms of intelligence and ability to use tools.
I believe that it’s a necessary step in the development of the human species to encounter other species as equals. It seems obvious that a person who was raised in isolation would not be able to reach their full potential (there are many examples of children being abandoned and living with animals, the results are not positive). It also seems obvious to me that a species that is raised in isolation without interacting with other equal species will also be unable to reach their full potential. I believe that the human race needs to meet with another species of an equal level as the next stage in the development of our civilization.
Given the lack of success of SETI programs it seems that uplifting a species such as dogs, monkeys, or dolphins is likely to give better results in this regard than trying to contact non-human intelligent creatures.
Dogs might be a good first choice for uplift because they are well domesticated, this means that you are permitted to own them in residential areas without a license and there are good veterinary services for them. A possible way of starting an uplift program would be for people around the world to buy dogs of some particular breeds and then measure them by some objective scales. There are intelligence tests for animals that could be applied to dogs, the ones that get the best scores would be permitted to breed. Also we would want to breed them for communication ability (the ability to talk) and dexterity (evolve their toes into fingers). The statistics of the dogs and their lineage (don’t want in-bred dogs) could be stored in a database and the breeding program could be done in an open-source manner over the net.
Most domesticated dogs are in-bred to some degree so we would want to cross-breed them to some extent. Poodles are reasonably intelligent and live for a long time so may be good for a start to this program, also blue-heelers, terriers, and labradors are reasonably smart and could be included.