New PBS Documentary Brings Elon Musk (and His 3-Year-Old) to the MoMA


The future looked bright despite the rain on Tuesday evening at the Museum of Modern Art, where guests — including Elon Musk and Seth Meyers — gathered for a screening of a new PBS documentary series, “A Brief History of the Future.”

Mr. Musk, flanked by security, came with a preschooler in tow, his 3-year-old son, X Æ A-12, who is better known simply as X. (Same as Mr. Musk’s social media platform.)

X’s mother, the musician Grimes, is featured in the documentary series, which follows innovators who are trying to tackle some the world’s most pressing problems, like climate change and pollution. The documentary, as the title might suggest, centers on futurism. Its adherents approach these obstacles and challenges with a distinct sense of optimism.

(Mr. Musk is also a friend of Kathryn Murdoch, an executive producer for the show. Ms. Murdoch is married to James Murdoch, who is on the board of Tesla.)

While waiting for the screening to begin in the museum’s Celeste Bartos theater, guests discussed the F-word of the evening. Would you live until the end of time if science made it possible?

Yes, Mr. Meyers said, but only as a vampire: “I wouldn’t just want it to be medicine. I’d like to be undead.”

Speaking of the more immediate horizon, Mr. Meyers said that November was something that kept him up at night when thinking about the future.

“We’re hosting Thanksgiving,” he joked when asked to specify what worried him about that particular month.

Mr. Musk, in a black T-shirt and moto jacket, weighed in on the subject of the future, too.

“I think we’re currently teaching kids in school to hate America or to question whether America is good,” Mr. Musk said, reflecting on something he feels society is doing right now that will negatively affect the years to come.

“There’s a lot of focus on all things America does wrong, but not enough on what America has done, both currently and historically,” he continued. “Which then causes people to lose faith in America. And then, I don’t know, we might fracture as a society and no longer be the United States of America.”

Mr. Musk also estimated that just five years from now, in 2029, “A.I. will be smarter than all humans combined.” But, he added, “I have a habit of being overly optimistic about projections.”

Inside the screening room, Mr. Meyers interviewed some of the team behind the show, including its host, Ari Wallach.

“Ari, you are a futurist,” Mr. Meyers began. X, as if on cue, began to giggle loudly, prompting the small crowd, which included the actor Peter Gallagher and the businesswoman Indré Rockefeller, to follow suit.

After a screening of the second episode, guests decamped — some on foot, huddled under umbrellas — a few blocks away to the Lobster Club, a Japanese brasserie in Midtown, where they sipped gimlets and noshed on sushi and filet mignon.

The younger Musk wandered around the restaurant wearing a Tesla shirt while his father chatted with Mr. Wallach. Will Cotton, the painter, sat with Rose Dergan of Gagosian, Alina Cho, the journalist, and Celine Rattray, the film producer, discussing ocean cleanup efforts and a leather alternative made of mushrooms, two subjects from the evening’s presentation.

Elsewhere in the room, the filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, in a purple tie-dye sweater, chatted with the artist Dustin Yellin, who was also wearing a patterned knit. As he talked, Mr. Aronofsky flashed a chipped matte silver manicure. The polish, he said, connects him to his mother. (He’s a regular at his neighborhood nail salon.)

He was optimistic about the years to come.

“Five years ago, talking about climate, nobody was really listening, and now the greatest minds on the planet are really working on it in a real way,” he said.

On the way to the coat check, Fern Mallis, the former executive director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and a friend stopped to chat with Mr. Musk. Their in? They told him they knew his mother, the model Maye Musk.


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