On the EVE Online forums, Ellente Fervens makes a request that crops up occasionally: the directional scanner should have an option to update automatically, shifting a tedious and repetitive task away from the player to the computer. Conceptually, I agree with this idea. This is sci-fi, and we are piloting complex ships no doubt stuffed with computing power. It should be possible to give the ship computer a set of commands such as, 'keep d-scan updated, and if an unknown ship or scanning probes are detected then initiate an emergency warp back to the tower'.
Practically, however, I do not agree with such a change. EVE Online is not just a sci-fi environment, it is also and primarily a game. The interest and entertainment comes from player skill, and the progression of that skill. If you take away the skill from the game, by placing control in the hands of a computer, you are taking away the reason to play the game. This, I would argue, is one reason why AFK-[anything] is considered wrong, or at least unsporting. You play a game to be involved, and removing that involvement is seen to be detrimental to enjoyment.
As an example, the act of scanning is obviously algorithmic. Arrange probes in a set pattern, scan, pick a signature, centre the probe pattern on that signature, reduce the range of probes, scan. Repeat until signature is 100% or probe range is minimised, bookmark and/or ignore the signature, and reset; repeat until all signatures are bookmarked or ignored. In reality, there should be no pilot interaction for scanning. Launch your probes, let the computer do everything, and analyse the results at your leisure. But the lack of interaction gives no reason to be at the controls, to be playing the game.
Similar arguments could be made for other aspects of New Eden life, such as planetary interaction. I don't know myself, but I suspect there is an algorithmic method for finding sources of planet goo, extracting it, and shipping it to space. It would save a lot of fiddling around if you could just tell your computer to do it for you. And it would probably do a better job, too. Manufacturing also has algorithmic properties, when considering what blueprints to buy and research, and when to install lots of separate jobs to get a resultant ship off the production line. This isn't unusual.
Part of the reason there are so many processes that can be reduced to automation is that EVE Online is essentially a simulation, already running on computers, and already reduced to algorithms. This is clearly demonstrated by acknowledging that mission-running can be automated. The rats are always the same, and will always react the same way, because that's how they've been designed. Modules, planetary equipment, and probes will never deteriorate, so each subsequent process will be exactly the same as the previous one. Anything that has been programmed can be automated.
That's not to say scanning shouldn't be done automatically. But if it is, there must be some reason for players to want to scan manually. Generally, a common theme in gaming is to reward player interaction over player non-interaction. In this case, it would be that automated scanning would take at least twice as long as manual scanning. Note how this still makes no sense from a realism viewpoint, as a computer would be able to arrange probes much more quickly than a human. But if the processes were realistic then player interaction would be detrimental to progress, which is antithetical to the idea of gameplay. And there is a firm precedent, as autopilot takes you more slowly to your destination than does manual navigation.
If you consider the parts of the game that cannot be automated, that are not algorithmic, you will see a common pattern: player involvement. PvP is the defining aspect of EVE Online, and with good reason. Once you get other players, other people, involved, predictability is thrown out of the window. There may be aspects of PvP combat that can feel repetitive, or could be done more quickly by a computer, but there is always variation, always uncertainty, and that cannot be easily accounted for by an algorithm. The heart of EVE Online shows that player interaction and skill is rewarded over mechanically reproducing certain actions.
Now to bring the discussion back to d-scan updating automatically. Yes, conceptually it should be possible. Computers can do this easily. And there seems little reason to object to it. After all, the player still needs to analyse the results, and ephemeral ships or probes can still be missed if a capsuleer takes a drink or is otherwise distracted. But this isn't futuristic spaceship life, this is a game. Player interaction needs to be rewarded over player non-interaction. Automated d-scanning, if it happens, would need to update slowly, and significantly slowly than is possible manually.
A thirty-second automatic update of d-scan may be acceptable to consider. Any less and d-scan would come close to being the w-space version of a populated local channel, negating the base concept behind w-space. You could argue that this period is too long, and a pilot would be better off updating d-scan manually. Well, that is pretty much my point. An automated d-scan updating every thirty seconds is better than nothing, but updating it manually is better still. There needs to be risk, but specifically risk that can be mitigated by players being alert to those risks. There is limited automation in games for a reason, even if those reasons deny realism. The game needs to be player driven, lest we end up with computer-vs-computer gameplay whilst us meatbags with our slow-firing neurons sit back and watch what is essentially alternative TV.