Datus and Nusas Workshop, Day 1

Today was the first day of the two-day Datus and Nusas protocols workshop. We spent the morning unpacking the concept of Nusantara, and the afternoon trying to explore it through protocol-based mental models. Here’s a graphic one of the attendees Daniel Tan, made of the conversation.


Some of my quick notes

  1. The Art of Not Being Governed came up repeatedly, but in a broader sense thatn the “Lomia” model of James Scott. Sam Chua pointed out that the martime SE Asia was “seapunk” and ungovernable too and also “rice punk” – rice as a crop that requires intense local commitment and its own kind of resistance.

  2. Multiperspectival thinking as a “default” disposition for SE Asians, and its relationship to composite iconography and symbolism.

  3. The centrality of irreverance and a background channel of constant active context shaping of whatever is happening in the foreground as a core principle of Nusantara culture. This idea tied the day together for me, especially via the point made by Rithika of the “trickster crow steering the canoe” as a way of opening up possibility space.

  4. Personal aha moment was getting the point that SE Asian culture is very “portable” in relation to geography and can move physically wholesale. It’s more than mobility/nomadism. It’s a pattern of decoupling society and terrritoriality.

  5. The idea of “escape” (subtly different from “exit”) as a dynamic defining the whole region.


I found it really interesting that the government here adopts a tesselation-style model for adopting solutions that work across more local jurisdictions, which seemed like a really great model at first. Even more interesting was hearing from @chelbelllllls and others that this had the effect of making innovations too rigid by turning them into law and ossifying them too quickly.

Takeaway was that it might be best to have both “hard”, “soft”, “warm”, “cold” and reverseable/irreversible elements (h/t to shawn and @Howahkan) components to policy so they are rigid enough to provide structure, but flexible enough to bend with local culture and evolving needs and contexts over time.

Final thought, expanding on last night’s quick elevator chat on the way home was how similar the governance structures in the region resemble a blockchain (or maybe more aptly, how similar blockchain architecture is to the regional governance mechanisms that have been developed here). E.g:

  • No one country here seems to dominate the regions culture (insanely diverse and strangely peaceful in their coexistence, even within each country) or economy (needs a fact check!). Each country seems to preserve its diversity while also integrating components of neighbouring ones really smoothly <> Blockchains are decentralized systems where multiple nodes work together to maintain the system, no one node really has total control.

  • Regional organizations (e.g. ASEAN) help the countries here to reach conensus on important social/economic/security issues and achieve regional stability and a kind of “competitive collaboration” that exists here <> Blockchain nodes require a consensus mechanism between nodes such as proof of stake/work.