When the OP presents the following as "fact" when it is, in fact, opinion, it undermines the case being made:
Frontier have access to relevant information on the player-base as a whole - and can probably determine that, for some players, interdictions are not always able to be evaded and that AI does indeed provide a challenge, i.e. NPCs destroy some players.
Must have missed that, do you have a post link (as not everyone uses the same number of posts per page). However, if there's a way to avoid something then it would become the meta.
Depends on the individual - completion of a less than pleasant task can give a sense of achievement, to some.
.... if everyone were to fly meta-PvP ships, yes. They don't.
Multi-player != PvP, in this game - as Private Groups can be created where PvP is either forbidden or controlled. The player-driven narrative might well refer to the BGS (no requirement to play in Open to participate), PowerPlay (no requirement to play in Open to participate), CGs (no requirement to play in Open to participate).
One person's grind may be another person's gameplay - it rather depends on what each person enjoys. Unlocking Engineers, for example, may require players to engage in activities that they hadn't previously - therefore it exposes them to different aspects of the game.
If there is no time component, is there any satisfaction in simply immediately going to the store to buy new stuff?
Yes and no - long term players have a rolling start due to the fact that they can (probably) just go out and buy the optimal material / data hunting ship out there or have already completed some of the entry requirements for Engineers (e.g. 5,000LY from start point to unlock Palin).
Also, if long term players enjoy a significant advantage in relation to shortening access times to new content does that not lessen the amount of gameplay associated with the new content?
Are you suggesting that PvP is balanced when there are no restrictions in accessing modules (other than credits, of course)? The fact that there are over thirty ships suggests otherwise.
PvP is also an optional element of the game - why should players who don't engage in it have their gameplay options reduced to suit it?