Originally Posted by Typo
This is wrong. How could anything be only partly aware of its own existence?
Here's what I think you're missing. Yeah, of course dogs won't wake up one day self-aware and start doing incredible things. We didn't! It has taken us a couple millennia to get where we are today. Humans started as primitive creatures, too. The huge difference that set humans apart from the very beginning, however, is that they were aware of their selves.
But this point isn't worth trying to justify. Dogs will never be self-aware because they have reached the end of their evolution. The only ways they can change from this point forward are small, like better paws for linoleum flooring (or, whatever).
The reason why self awareness and our advancement is a linear relationship is that self-aware beings are the only ones who go above and beyond what nature gives them. Not because they have to, but because they want to. They are aware of their selves, and they want better lives for themselves.
What's this self-awareness? Is it so great?
Seems to me that self awareness is just one subset of conscious thought ... I'd like to think it's a very small subset because the best feelings in life are when we are so absorbed that we lose ourselves and are utterly unselfconscious.
As Chris said, consciousness isn't on/off like a light but a continuum.