Surprisingly awesome: The history of accounting with Adam Davidson

Double-entry bookkeeping might not be the flashiest of innovations to come out of the industrial revolution. But, while it was critical for the integrated enterprise, workers wound up on the "cost" side of the ledger, and maybe they shouldn't have.

Adam Davidson, who's reported for NPR and The New York Times and recently launched a podcast called Surprisingly Awesome, spoke at the re:Work 2014 event about how businesses record their expenses. The industrial revolution spawned technical innovations allowing, for the first time, for an integrated enterprise to take raw materials, process and refine them, and manufacture a marketable product. However, tracking the associated costs with each step was beyond the ability of contemporary accounting. It took years for double-entry bookkeeping to show where value was being created in the system. But that system counted workers as a “cost” out of convenience, Davidson argued, due of the limits of the accounting.