total regret of operations

The term "cost of operations" has various incompatible definitions.

TCO variants

When dealing with signal infrastructure problems the term total cost of operations is used to emphasize many costs that have historically been left out of such calculations, which were often narrowly framed as the "total cost of ownership". This phrase has some resonance in particular with respect to leasing and automobiles. However, any use of the term:cost is suspect where more than one payer is involved.

cost of regret

A modern cost of regret approach is more robust as it emphasizes the differential regret applying to each victim of the use or the acquisition or disposal of the artifact. It is to be preferred when dealing with complex problems, e.g. e-government. In that approach, transactions of operations and ownership are seen as just more ways to acquire or alleviate liability or obligations that themselves imply regrets:


Although it is very common to assume insurance can liquidate any regret as a simple cost, the phrase total regret of operations is more exact in avoiding this quantification and including various affected people who would otherwise be left out of any simple costing.

Kyoto as insurance

For instance climate change defies any single simple costing though the Kyoto Protocol did attempt to quantify a value of life relative to it and attempt, in effect, to charge developed nations for insurance of the lives of their citizens, while letting developing nations avoid paying that in the first phase.

avoiding regret assumptions

The phrase total risk of operations has also been used, e.g. in municipal procurement, to try to incorporate these broad risks, which is preferable if it is unwise to assume risk as regret, such as when:
  • there are many intangibles at stake, such as the reputation of a city for service continuity in a crisis AND
  • there is a single locus of responsibility that may have one instinctual view of risk but not share any explicit model of regret, and so might be inhibited from acting by any requirement to agree on how the risk should be modelled or named

Precautionary Principle

An extreme of the regret-assessment approach is the Precautionary Principle which assumes that there are always unknown regrets and that they tend to be large due to the Law of Unforseen Events. It requires a strict liability, e.g. Polluter Pays approach, to any operations
of any equipment, deployment of any invention.


The 4P approach combines the two so that some entity always takes responsibility for any unforseen outcomes of a specific technology's use, that is, those who benefit from ignoring the Precautionary Principle, are strictly liable for all pollution that results. Critics observe however that the automobile, light bulb, airplane, all would certainly not have been deployed if their effects on the landscape, sleep or war had been known in advance, or if someone had had to pay for them. These approaches are ultimately incompatible with limited liability and corporate personhood in which an entity with no body can "take responsibility" but go bankrupt after serving as a liablity sink. The total regret of operations of any technology always falls on the society as a whole.