Imagine that someone creates a computer algorithm that can evolve, and when left to evolve for a couple of months it becomes as intelligent and conscious as you. In my opinion it then has as much right to existence as any human.
What if the algorithm were started again, on its way to creating a 2nd artificial life - would you have any moral qualms about erasing it after it had been running for one day? I don't think anyone would.
I think that the question of what a life-form could become in the future is irrelevant to the question of how it should be treated right now. I see this as completely analogous to the question of abortion, however I recognise that most people wouldn't value a computer based life as equal to a human life. That view is not logical, and is another example of people having an opinion hardwired in by evolution and then trying to find justification for it after they have committed to it.
If it is accepted that a life-form only has value [right now] if [right now] it has consciousness and sentience, then the abortion question is very simple. Abortion is definitely fine up to the point that the foetus has these characteristics. Current scientific evidence suggests that a foetus shows signs of a personality and emotions at about 6 weeks after conception. There is then a grey area until the level of consciousness and intelligence reaches the same level as the highest life-form that you would kill because it is tasty – perhaps a pig (as intelligent as dogs by most tests!). A baby's brain does not develop this level of awareness until it is about 2 years old.
You may instinctively recoil in horror at this apparent suggestion that killing a baby isn't really that bad, but remember that it is simply impossible for a species to exist if it doesn't evolve a strong protective instinct towards its young – that doesn't mean the instinct is morally correct, only that it is an evolutionarily fit strategy. What is the moral difference between killing a pig or a cow, and killing a baby or severely retarded human if you accept that there is no a-priori reason that a human life is worth more than any other (an instinctive, quasi-religious belief).