"… the potential energy flow into heat necessary for a process" (1971, p.187).
This somewhat surprising but quite universal systemic generalization of the concept of cost by H. ODUM is in perfect accordance with the 2nd law of thermodynamics, which controls all cosmic (and human) activities.
The practical lack of a systemic concept of cost is one of the most serious hidden problem of our time, since long term or indirect costs remain hidden due to ignorance or malicious concealment.
Even ODUM proposal should be extended, since any process is part of a system's activity, which in turn takes place in an environment whose correct and complete description, and evaluation is seldom considered.
An excellent example is the "cost" of oil, a non-renewable resource. Is it the cost of its discovery, extraction, transport and refining ? Or should it include the enviromental costs of its use ? Or should it take in account the very difficulty to calculate costs of its replacement as a non-renewable resource?
For the concept of benefit per unit cost, see Foraging theory.
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Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science (2020). Title of the entry. In Charles François (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics (2). Retrieved from www.systemspedia.org/[full/url]
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